Candidates for Vento’s seat debate issues

Megan Boldt

Over 100 people gathered at Macalester College on Saturday afternoon to listen to and ask questions of the eight Democratic candidates vying for Bruce Vento’s Fourth Congressional District seat.
Issues discussed ranged from the environment to campaign finance reform.
“(We) believe students can be a significant force in the upcoming election and want to increase student and community knowledge and involvement in the campaign,” said Laura Zlotowski, a member of Macalester Democrats.
Only a small percentage of the audience were college students. The majority were middle-aged people and senior citizens.
None of the questions asked pertained directly to higher education, but some candidates touched on the issue in their opening and closing statements.
Rafael Ortega, Ramsey County commissioner, said education is one of his primary focuses.
He said ever since he was a child, his dad stressed the importance of obtaining an education. From that advice, he came to Minnesota to pursue a master’s degree in social work at the University.
University area Rep. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights, said she wants to make more financial aid available from the federal government to students.
“I care that students can actually afford to go to college,” McGuire said.
Most candidates agreed the federal funding surplus should be used on programs such as Social Security and Medicare and also to pay off the national debt.
Candidates also discussed the global economy and U.S. membership in organizations such as the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, and the questionable practices of countries with which the United States trades.
“We have to remember, trade is not just a way to oppress people, but also a way to bring people up,” said Chris Coleman, St. Paul City Council member.
Mary Rosenthal, former director of Minnesota’s AFL-CIO division, addressed the hardships candidates face in raising money. This is why there is a need for campaign finance reform, she said.
“That’s why we have the representation we have,” Rosenthal said.
The forum Saturday was one of the last public forums with the candidates before the May 6 convention, when delegates will vote on the choice for the DFL endorsement.
Other candidates in attendance were attorney Kathleen Gaylord, small-business owner Cathie Hartnett, state Rep. Betty McCollum, DFL-North St. Paul, and state Sen. Steve Novak, DFL-New Brighton. All official Democratic candidates were in attendance.

Megan Boldt covers state government and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3212.