Candidates spar at district debate

Kari Petrie

In a unique showing of four different parties with four different ideologies, the candidates for the State House District 59B debated Wednesday.

Incumbent Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis; University student and Republican Party candidate Amanda Hutchings; Independence Party candidate Ron Lischeid; and Green Party candidate Becki Smith met at the Radisson Hotel Metrodome on Washington Avenue Southeast. Approximately 40 people attended the event.

Smith and Lischeid reiterated their abilities to add a new voice to the legislative process if elected. They said they would be able to cross party lines to get things done.

“If I’m elected, it will be a wake-up call to Democrats and Republicans that they need to get in touch with a broader spectrum of voters,” Lischeid said.

All the candidates agreed that cuts made to the University’s budget during the last legislative session should be restored.

Kahn said making cuts to different programs to prevent tax increases was a mistake.

“A no-new-taxes policy is a total fallacy,” she said.

Hutchings said the money could be found in other areas rather than increasing taxes.

Kahn said anyone who would suggest that the University’s funding could be restored through reprioritized spending hasn’t looked at the budget.

Smith suggested the money could come from taking back corporate subsidies.

Lischeid said increasing taxes was the “clearer way” to restore University funding.

At the end of the debate, the audience asked the candidates questions. One University student asked Kahn, Lischeid and Smith why they felt they could represent students as compared with Hutchings, who is a student.

The three candidates said they are active in the University community and keep an open dialogue with students. Kahn said she feels her values mirror those of most students.

University urban studies senior Nate Lischwe, who attended the debate, said he thinks Hutchings could represent students because she understands what students want.

“I feel we should give her a shot,” he said.

But some candidates, including Hutchings herself, questioned her lack of familiarity with government processes.

Passing midsentence in one response, Hutchings later said her age and inexperience could be seen as a disadvantage.

“But I prefer to see it as an opportunity,” she said.

Refocusing on the issues, Smith said she wants to be elected so she can fight for the advancement of women.

But Kahn said she saw Smith’s statement in a different light.

“I want to thank Becki for that passionate endorsement,” Kahn said. “Because I have been a leader in supporting women.”

Lischeid said he finds being a representative a lot like his workforce experience.

“It’s an extension of customer service,” he said. “And customer service needs to be applied to government.”