U.S. Representative, District 5

Courtney Blanchard

.Keith Ellison, Democrat

What is your policy on immigration?

We need a pathway to citizenship for people who are in the country. We need to streamline and improve … legal immigration; if we did that, we wouldn’t have so much illegal immigration. We need to raise some of the limits on visas that we permit in the country – of course, after sufficient screening – but if we let more people into the country legally Ö we wouldn’t have as much illegal immigration.

In light of Iran and North Korea, how should the United States address foreign policy?

I believe that the United States should operate on the basis of peace, should use negotiation and diplomacy, should engage countries bilaterally or multilaterally in discussions in order to make sure they don’t nuclearize. I think the United States also has a duty to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

I also think that, as bad as Saddam Hussein was, the fact that leading authorities were urging that there be continued inspections as opposed to the U.S. occupation back in 2003, by invading after the Iraqi government said, ‘OK you can inspect,’ we sent a message to North Korea and Iran.

First the President says they’re the ‘Axis of Evil,’ and then he invades in a preemptive war, unilaterally, and I think he sent a message to the other countries that they need to get nukes.

What we should do now is engage in bilateral talks with North Korea and engage in diplomacy with Iran.

How would you address the situation in Iraq?

I think that you have to have a multipronged approach and you have to know from the very beginning that there’s no easy answers here.

But, I think that we should announce that we’re leaving, we start bringing the troops home right away, we engage the sectarian forces that are fighting … in diplomacy to stop the fighting. We engage the countries in the neighborhood who understand Arab languages and culture, together with the U.N., to do peacekeeping and we begin the rebuilding process in Iraq.

Should higher education become more affordable? And, if so, how?

As a state legislator, I’ve been a very strong supporter of higher ed. and, back in August, I released a plan to double Pell Grants, double the HOPE Scholarship, allow for consolidation of student loans, reduce student interest rates on those loans and give debt forgiveness for students who work in the public interest.

What is your stance on abortion?

It’s a woman’s right to choose. I also believe in comprehensive sex education, because I think we need to try and prevent abortion and unwanted pregnancy.

What is your stance on gay marriage?

It’s a personal decision and the government needs to stay out of it.

Would you change the federal tax policy?

Yes, I would make the tax code a progressive tax code and would give people tax credit who work at the low-income scale, because we have to fight poverty. I’m a very strong supporter of the earned-income tax credit. I would not allow the Bush tax cuts to remain permanent and would fight vociferously to prevent the repeal of the estate tax.

How, specifically, would you change health care, if at all?

I’m a proponent of universal, single-payer health care. I think the United States needs to join the 36 other countries around the world with single-payer health care.

We pay for the uninsured already. I believe we need a ‘Medicare plus’ program, so what that means is we’ll strip away limitations that keep people from entering the program, so we have Medicare for all, basically.

Tammy Lee, Independence

What is your policy on immigration?

I supported the McCain/ Kennedy compromise in the Senate. It was a more rational approach Ö it cracks down on corporations that are hiring illegal immigrants, stops the flow of illegal immigrants in the country, but it also provides an earned path to citizenship for those who have been living here and abiding by the law.

It’s the best compromise that’s out there. There’s no perfect solution, but that’s the best way of getting there.

In light of Iran and North Korea, how should the United States address foreign policy?

President Bush actually did one thing right this year Ö he brought China, South Korea, Japan and Russia to the table to impose sanctions on North Korea to stop them from continuing to be a nuclear threat. That’s the right approach; bringing other countries to the table who have a shared, invested interest in national security.

Similarly with Iran, we need to band together with other countries around the world to keep the heat on Iran and absolutely demand that there will be no nuclear threat.

How would you address the situation in Iraq?

I would begin the process of withdrawal immediately, but with a rational exit strategy that keeps our troops safe as we’re beginning to bring them home.

I support the plan of Congressman Jack Murtha, which is a plan that says, ‘Yes, let’s begin the process of withdrawing our troops immediately, but let’s bring them home in a safe, orderly and efficient manner.’

Should higher education become more affordable? And, if so, how?

Absolutely! What the federal government has done Ö is dramatically gutted the student loan programs.

More and more families are unable to achieve the dream of higher education. Parents can’t afford to send their students and students can’t access affordable subsidized loans. So we need to increase funding for Pell Grants, as well as increase funding for federal subsidized loans.

I also support some tuition loan forgiveness for students who work in at-risk areas, or with minority populations or in low-income areas.

What is your stance on abortion?

I am pro-choice. I am endorsed by the Minnesota Women’s Campaign Fund, which only endorses pro-choice women.

I’m a strong advocate for sex education in the schools and access to free contraception for low-income students and women in general. I’m also a strong advocate for emergency contraception.

What is your stance on gay marriage?

I support civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. I support fair and easier adoption practices so that gay and lesbian couples can create a family of their own.

I think that, regardless of sexual orientation, every person should have the right to be able to have health care benefits with their partner, to be able to inherit the income and assets that they’ve grown together cumulatively, to be at the bedside of their loved one if they’re passing away or are in the hospital.

Marriage is an issue that should be decided by the churches. That’s an issue of faith, that’s something that the religious community decides.

Would you change the federal tax policy?

The federal tax code is a disaster. We absolutely need to find ways to simplify the tax code and make it more fair.

We need to roll back that tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans and reinvest that money into the middle class.

How, specifically, would you change health care, if at all?

I would change the law to allow for association health plans, which are health insurance purchasing pools that de-link a person’s health care from their workplace. That means any individual, or a small business even, could buy into these Ö and get much more affordable health care rates.

This gives individuals and small businesses purchasing power and allows them to take more control of their health care choices.

Alan Fine, Republican

Fine declined to be interviewed.