DFL Congressional candidates discuss student debt, abuse allegations at forum

Three candidates discussed student debt and immigration at Monday's forum, which was hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

<p>Three DFL candidates running for Minnesota's 5th Congressional District discussed gun violence, health care, student debt and immigration at a forum hosted by the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018.</p>

Michelle Griffith

Three DFL candidates running for Minnesota's 5th Congressional District discussed gun violence, health care, student debt and immigration at a forum hosted by the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018.

Michelle Griffith

One day before the primary election, three DFL candidates running for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District sat down for a public forum hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs on Monday.

In a district that historically elects a Democrat to the congressional seat, candidates answered questions asked by a panel of Humphrey students in front of around 150 people. 

Former Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis and Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, voiced their views on student debt and immigration.

Candidates were reluctant to comment on recent domestic assault allegations against candidate for Minnesota Attorney General Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who currently holds the seat, until further information emerges. The alleged abuse surfaced Saturday night, after the son of Ellison’s former girlfriend allegedly saw video of his mother, Karen Monahan, being dragged off a bed and cursed at by Ellison.

Ellison has denied the allegations, and his ex-wife Kim Ellison defended him in a statement on Sunday.

Kelliher said it wouldn’t be helpful to discuss the matter at the moment as not enough information is known about the situation.

“The hardest part of this is that we have an election tomorrow where [Ellison’s] name appears on the ballot and we’re not going to be able to resolve the issues around this,” Kelliher said.

Throughout the forum, candidates ardently addressed how they plan to ease student debt burdens. 

Torres Ray said after the forum that alleviating student debt is her “absolute, top priority.”

She added that more federal funding needs to be directed toward lowering student tuition, and less toward infrastructure and research.

Omar, who won the DFL’s endorsement at a convention in late June, cited her own personal experience with student debt.  She said the best way to mitigate it would be to cancel it at the federal level.

Kelliher agreed that debt cancellation is important for the public. She added she wants more funding for the University to peruse research initiatives.

“I think, overall, both the state and federal government need to be doing more to support the University of Minnesota,” Kelliher said after the forum.

The winner of the primary will be the Democratic Party’s candidate on the ballot in November.