Republicans Michelle Fischbach, who is aiming for DFLer Collin Peterson’s U.S. House seat, and Jason Lewis, who wants DFLer Tina Smith's U.S. Senate seat, were the main speakers at a GOP get-together Saturday, June 27, at La Barista restaurant in Detroit Lakes.

About 60 people were there, including several other Republican-endorsed candidates: State Sen. Paul Utke of Park Rapids, State Rep. Steve Green of Fosston, and Detroit Lakes resident Brian Anderson, who is running for Rep. Paul Marquart’s Minnesota House seat.

Fischbach talked about her battles with DFLers in the state Legislature, and her priorities for the U.S. House, and people in the crowd criticized Peterson for close ties to the sugar beet industry, particularly American Crystal Sugar.

The Trump Administration is currently asking the Supreme Court to end the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and several people in the crowd said Republicans need to develop a comprehensive health care proposal, perhaps using tax credits and enhanced health savings accounts, for those concerned about losing their health insurance.

Peter Balega of Detroit Lakes talked about the importance of Becker and Otter Tail counties to the 7th Congressional District. Voters in those counties are most likely to vote for a Republican for president, but also support Democrats Collin Peterson and Paul Marquart in their races, he said.

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“Collin Peterson runs around the district claiming he’s a powerful ag chairman … but he himself has admitted (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi is running the place. Peterson admitted he had been neutered,” Fischbach said.

Michelle Fischbach speaks to a Republican gathering Saturday in Detroit Lakes. In the background are Rep. Steve Green, left, and Sen. Paul Utke, right. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)
Michelle Fischbach speaks to a Republican gathering Saturday in Detroit Lakes. In the background are Rep. Steve Green, left, and Sen. Paul Utke, right. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)

Fischbach will face four other Republicans on the Aug. 11 primary ballot, including Dave Hughes, who ran against Peterson in 2016 and 2018.

Lewis also faces four other Republicans in the primary election. (Incumbents Collin Peterson and Tina Smith also have DFL primary challengers).

Lewis was a radio host, political commentator, and writer before being elected to Minnesota’s Second District House seat, serving from 2017 to 2019.

He didn’t mince words, saying he is “running against the radical Tina Smith … who voted against police reform because she really doesn’t want it.”

The Senate police reform bill was designed to provide a bipartisan solution, but it was killed by House Democrats, he said. “They want a political issue, but it’s not going to work,” he said.

He blasted Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Minneapolis elected city officials for allowing “chaos” in the city. “The mayor and city council refused to do the first job of government,” to protect lives and property, he said, adding that the Constitution was enacted to prevent mob rule, something those city officials failed at. He called those officials “the most illiterate set of vandals in a generation … they abandoned a whole police department, 1,500 businesses were ruined or destroyed. If you own a pharmacy, forget it — they were coming for your inventory.”

Using a popular Black Lives Matter slogan, he said “silence is violence,” and criticized Smith and Peterson for not condemning what’s going on with the city council and policing in Minneapolis. “Tina Smith is all-in on this ‘abolish the police’” movement, he said.

And he issued a dire warning: “We will have a state and a country our parents wouldn’t recognize,” he said. “If you don’t want this to happen in Detroit Lakes, don’t let these people go to Washington … this is the most important election of our time.”

He also blasted “this Orwellian lockdown” of the economy because of the COVID-19 virus, and said, “When all is said and done, the health ramifications of this lockdown will be worse for most people than the virus,” because of missed medical diagnoses, missed employment opportunities and missed education opportunities.

“We have it within our power to begin the world anew,” he said, quoting Thomas Paine. “You have it within your power,” he told the crowd. “We’re going to take Minnesota in 2020.”

Absentee voting for the primary election opened on Friday.

Utke reminded voters who are concerned about sending a ballot through the mail that they can drop it off at the courthouse in person, and Belaga noted that the Becker County Republicans are opening a campaign office in the strip mall near Spitfire restaurant in Detroit Lakes.