Though he currently holds a seat in the Minnesota Senate, Elbow Lake Republican Torrey Westrom is hoping voters give him the chance to make a difference on a national scale come November.
“There’s such a need for change right now,” said Westrom during a visit to the Detroit Lakes Newspapers office on Wednesday. “The direction this country is headed is concerning.”
Westrom is the candidate that his party has endorsed to face off against 12-term incumbent U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) in the 7th District.
It’s a formidable task, as Peterson has held off all challengers for the past 24 years — often by a wide margin — despite the district where he lives being ranked as one of the most conservative-leaning in the state.
But Westrom believes the time for a shakeup is now.
“I think 24 years is long enough,” he said of Peterson’s Congressional tenure. “It’s time for fresh leadership, to shake things up in Washington.”
Westrom, an 18-year veteran of the Minnesota Legislature — having first served in the House, and then the Senate — sees some clear flaws in the way the U.S. government is being run.
He points to Obama-care as “a prime example of government overreach.”
“The cost of health care has only gone up,” Westrom said. “Despite being promised an average savings of $2,500 per family, nobody has seen that (savings). Most are seeing that much in additional expense.
“People have lost policies or had them change (i.e., at increased cost), because of Obamacare.”
If he is elected in November, Westrom said, he would work to “repeal and replace” President Obama’s current health care policies, and “start over with a patient and doctor-centered health care plan.”
Westrom is also concerned by what he perceives as the “stalling out” of the Keystone XL pipeline project, which involves construction of a proposed 875-mile pipeline and related facilities that would expedite the transport of crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada and the Bakken Shale Formation in Montana, through the Midwest and down into Texas.
“We need more energy independence,” he said. “The Keystone pipeline needs to be built, but the current party in charge continues to block this common-sense proposal.”
Westrom said the proposed pipeline would also free up much-needed space on the region’s railways for the transport of grain and propane.
“We need more available rail cars to adequately transport our grain and propane,” Westrom said, noting that oil companies are paying premium rates to transport their crude by rail, leaving farmers to pay two to three times what they have paid in the past for transporting grain.
“That’s coming right out of our farmers’ pockets,” he said.
This rise in transportation costs has also led to a steep escalation in the cost of propane, which is a primary source of heat during the winter months, Westrom added.
“We were paying $5-$6 per gallon for propane last winter, which is an historically high level,” he said.
Westrom is also a strong supporter of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“It’s imperative for us to keep a strong, health and functional government,” he said.
With a current national debt of $17.5 trillion, and a Congress that keeps raising the debt ceiling, that goal is in serious jeopardy, Westrom believes.
“That’s my children’s future they’re mortgaging away,” he added.
Westrom, who lost his eyesight in a farm-related accident at the age of 14, is also a passionate advocate of independent living and employment opportunities for people living with disabilities.
He and his wife
Anna are currently raising twin daughters Madelyn and Whitney and son Carter in Elbow Lake, where they own and operate a small family business.
Those who would like to show their support for Westrom are encouraged to attend today’s Parade of the Northwest through downtown Detroit Lakes, where Westrom will be participating along with some of his supporters.
The parade — which is the crowning event of the 79th annual Northwest Water Carnival — gets underway at 1 p.m. It will be followed by a waterski show at 3 p.m.
For more information about Westrom, visit his campaign website at www.torreywestrom.com.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.