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Green, Branden square off in District 2B debate

Steve Green.1 / 2
Karen Branden 2 / 2

The Line 3 pipeline.

Single-payer healthcare.

Abortion rights.

Gun rights.

Home daycare deregulation.

All were issues that came up at a recent House District 2B debate between Republican incumbent Steve Green, 58, of Fosston and DFL challenger Karen Branden, 50, of Rochert.

The candidates answered questions posed by a panel of three reporters in an Oct. 3 debate televised by Lakeland PBS. Here are some of the highlights:

On the Line 3 pipeline:

Green: "The process has been needlessly cumbersome — we've been working for years to try to get Line 3 in, it is very much needed," he said. "The existing Line 3 can only be pumped at half its capacity. It is a disaster waiting to happen."

Pipeline is the safest way to move oil, and Line 3 will reduce congestion and wear and tear on the railroad tracks, he said. "There's a huge problem with our rail system now," he said. Moving oil by rail or by trucks is both very dangerous, he said. "PUC (the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission) has rightfully decided there is a need and we need to move forward and I hope we can move forward in a very quick fashion now," Green said.

Branden: "I trust our legal system and there are some big legal issues coming in, and some lawsuits. The Ojibwe tribe, I work with them, I talk to them, I spend time with them, I pass tobacco there, they are against the pipeline, and I think we need to listen to them ... as we move to more sustainable energy sources, I agree with Steve, this is a dangerous energy source. We need to move to new energy sources in ways that benefit our communities."

On moving to single-payer healthcare:

Branden: "I'm a fan of single-payer, a fan of providing healthcare to everyone," she said. "Telling people it's not affordable, 'sorry, kid, we can't afford to pay for your broken leg,' it's not good enough for me and that's not the Minnesota values that I was raised with."

She said a book written by State Sen John Marty lays out the plan for universal healthcare coverage in Minnesota pretty cleanly, and shows that costs would be comparable to what the state has now.

"Other countries have done this, and we're a failure if we don't do it," Branden said. "Places like Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, ireland — I could go on and on. We're smart enough to do this, we owe it to our people — anything less than single-payer, just isn't good enough."

Green: "I'm not a fan of single-payer. I think that Minnesota, if you look back before 2013, when we scrapped our existing policies, Minnesota had the healthcare system that was the envy of the country. We're working at trying to get back to that, but a lot of damage was done to it. MNsure and ObamaCare were an attempt at single-payer. It was designed to move us into a single-payer system, and it failed miserably, as you can see ... Everytime government gets involved in these things, it ends up being a disaster. A single-payer system will be a disaster."

Rebuttal by Branden: "I believe in the people of Minnesota, that we can do it together and I believe we want to come together. Those are our values ... we don't leave children without coverage. We don't leave vulnerable people without coverage. We don't believe that people with preexisting conditions don't deserve coverage. Healthcare is a right."

Green response: "Healthcare is not a right. Healthcare is a privilege. In Minnesota, everybody that was here that wanted coverage had it. We had different policies in place, and no one was turned away. That's what we had. Now we have people being turned away because they no longer can afford their coverage. It doesn't add up, and the United States and Minnesota are not small countries — they're big countries. And the price tag for this is more than we're going to be able to afford."

On gun safety and gun control:

Green: Hunting is a part of our lives, but it has nothing to do with our Second Amendment. Our Second Amendment right is the right that people have to protect themselves against a repressive government, should it ever come to that. That's what the Second Amendment's about." Our Second Amendment, if I can help it, is going nowhere — we're going to defend our Second Amendment to the end."

Regarding school safety, he added, "we tried to move a lot of money into school safety last legislative session," he said. The bills would have given the money to school districts to use as they thought best, not a one-size-fits-all requirement. "Most of those were vetoed by the governor," Green said.

Branden: "I grew up hunting and fishing in Minnesota on public lands. I just inherited by father's Winchester 30-30. Having guns is definitely a right in my family," she said. "The people I'm talking to have concerns about the people who might not be healthy enough to have a gun, that there is some danger with some people who are sick and shouldn't have a gun ... thousands of people have called me about this. ... Like other things, car safety, plane safety, prescription drug safety, we have to build safety features that work for our communities and just stop pretending that that's anything less than that."

What happens if Roe vs. Wade is overturned?

Green" "I am very anti-abortion. I'm all pro-life all the time (except to save the life of the mother)." If I had the opportunity, I would vote to end abortions on demand."

Branden: Nobody likes abortion, the realities around abortion, however, are very complicated and real ... Will I legislate something that will create back alley abortions and just move death from one place to another? Absolutely not. Will I criminalize 15-year-old rape victims who in a panic go and get a back alley abortion and put themselves in danger? Absolutely not," she said. "Abortion rates are going down every year because we are learning more about support systems, so people don't have to make those types of choices. Let's approach it with humanity and empathy instead of criminalization."

On the shortage of home daycare:

Branden: "I've been talking to daycare providers, and there is evidence there that some regulations have become a problem for some daycare providers, also being able to pay more of a liveable wage in these communities. And so some people have mentioned to me daycare co-ops in communities where there aren't daycares right now." Such co-ops could range from neighbors sharing babysitting time to something more formal, she said. "If those things are going to work and they're going to happen, we do need to take a serious look at this regulation..."

Green: "The regulations that were pushed forward under the Dayton Administration crippled our private daycare, and I believe this — it was done by design. They tried to unionize the private daycares. That didn't work. Then they tried to regulate them out of business. Not just the daycare providers, but our families have been severely hurt by this. I believe that the end goal was to get people into the universal pre-K, and have the daycares inside the school systems, instead of the private folks who could watch those kids, care for them, the way their parents wanted them cared for," he said. "We tried this year to pass some bills that would deregulate, and give them more authority to move back into the system that was working, but they were vetoed. We will try again next year ... to get private daycares back in business."

District 2B includes most of Becker County, all of Mahnomen County, and parts of Clearwater, Hubbard and Otter Tail counties.

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