A couple of weeks ago, I was paid a visit by another Republican candidate who hopes to unseat Rep. Tim Walz. I’m not sure how many more candidates are going to come out of the woodwork over the next couple of months, but we’ve got 11 months to go before the November 2010 elections and plenty of time for an already-interesting race to take greater shape.
Blue Earth resident Jim Hagedorn, who lives in Blue Earth and grew up on a grain and livestock fram outside of Truman, is no stranger to politics – and the way Washington works. HIs father, Tom, was elected to Congress to represent southwest Minnesota in 1974, and served until 1983. The younger Hagedorn also went to Washington, serving as a legislative assistant to former Rep. Arlan Stangeland, and was involved in moving forward what he describes as a bipartisan "workfare" bill that required welfare recipients to work for benefits. From 1991 to 1998, Hagedorn served as the Director for Legislative and Public Affairs for the Financial Management Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
"My father was just creating an opportunity for (Gil) Gutknecht to become congressman," Hagedorn joked during our conversation, referring to the Rochester Republican’s eventual election to Congress. Gutknecht, of course, served several terms in Washington before Walz defeated him in 2006.
"Now maybe Gutknecht has returned the favor," Gutknecht added, continuing: "I do believe Tim Walz is completely out of step with the district. His embrace of Barack Obama’s and Nancy Pelosi’s policies place our way of life and our future in great peril."
For instance, explained Hagedorn, the Democrats’ health care reform is intended to drag down costs and improve service, "but it creates 70 new bureaucracies. That’s the wrong way to make the system better."
Instead, Hagedorn insists the way to improve the health care systen is to – predictably – reduce the government’s role in it.
"We need to give people tax breaks and tax credits directly. Folks shouldn’t have to feel like they’re married to their job to get health care," he said. "We need to mimic auto insurance and homeowners insurance … and the big reason that’s not happening right now is government regulation. We need to deregulate rather than impose additional government control."
"I think in order to be truly honest (about health care reform) … Medicare and Medicaid need to be decoupled from the rest of the private insurance that’s out there," Hagedorn continued. "I think Medicare and Medicaid in many respects are mismanaged, and we should not use it to change the rest of our health insurance system and not change private medical practices."
He also is a proponent of several other traditional conservative principles, unsurprisingly, and refers to himself as "a limited government guy" who believes "the best way problems are solved is at the lowest possible level, and then working up the chain." He added: "You’re in a recession now; it’s not the time to be imposing additional costs on the private sector.
"There’s a general philosophical difference between the folks in Washington, D.C., and myself. They believe we can spend our way into prosperity. … My position is the best unemployment program is a job."
After visiting with Allen Quist, Randy Demmer and Hagedorn, it seems apparent that Republicans are going to field a First District candidate who is solidly conservative. The question is, which will most distingish himself? At this stage, the candidates are very similar when it comes to principles and stances on issues.
Hagedorn is hoping he can convince voters that his work in Washington demonstrates the kind of practical experience needed to serve as their congressman. Quist has a long political resume in Minnesota, and Demmer is a current state legislature currently in the political mix.
I look forward to see what transpires when these candidates meet – and debate.