RURAL HANSKA - Republican candidates for U.S. Senate and the 1st Congressional District shared their visions for victories with GOP activists Thursday at the Brown County Republican Fun Raiser. The event took place at Rep. Paul Torkelson's rural Hanska home.
The 1st District candidates each shared their vision for challenging four-term Democrat Rep. Tim Walz in 2014.
The unifying theme of the candidates was focusing on fiscal responsibility, tackling the federal debt and reducing the size of government to encourage economic freedom.
Rep. Mike Benson, of Rochester, said he is feeling the same momentum that gave Republican majorities in 2010, and pointed to his credentials of teaching business for many years.
"We're going to [win] this, and Tim Walz will just be a spot our history books in 2014," said Benson.
Aaron Miller, of Byron criticized the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and the growing burden of national debt.
"Obamacare is nothing more than a partisan, political trick. Unfortunately, we're the ones who will have to pay for that," said Miller, who supports repealing the bill.
He also objected to the doubling of the number of people on food stamps in recent years. He called welfare programs "bloated" and "out of control," and advocated big reforms.
On military intervention in Syria, Miller opposed it and felt President Barack Obama was using the military as "a political pawn." He joked that Russia had to save the day in the situation. He found the situation to be offensive as a military veteran.
He said military action should only be taken when U.S. national interests are at risk and when a clear "exit strategy" is laid out.
"When people wake up to the [Gov.] Mark Dayton tax increases and the Obamacare increase...they will come back to the party of answers and solution," said Miller.
Jim Hagedorn, of Blue Earth, did not attend the gathering due to the death a friend. However, his campaign manager Lon Firchau spoke on behalf of the candidate, emphasizing Hagedorn's legislative experience in Washington D.C.
He pointed to Hagedorn's recent appearance at Walz's public hearing on military action in Syria. He said debating Walz at a public event could have been a media risk, but he felt it showed Hagedorn to be respectful and knowledgeable on the topic. He encouraged people to visit Hagedorn's campaign website and view the video of the event.
Republican candidates Sen. Julie Ortman and Rep. Jim Abler also shared their campaign positions. They emphasized their respective abilities to tackle federal debt and bring a conservative message to voters.
Abler emphasized the Republicans' need to counter the Democrats' message and show Republicans do care about the common people during their pursuit of reforms. He said there needs to a genuine and strong reach to voters outside the party to generate 2014 victories.
"There's not 51 percent of us to go around. You have to get the independents ... and the moderate Democrats to come on board," said Abler, "If you don't, [Republicans] will keep out. If you don't, we'll keep all the [Democrats] you hate so much."
Ortman said issues like the national debt, the NSA tracking of private data and legislation "to take away our gun rights" are vitally important for the future. She said the only way to make a difference is to put in the hard work for candidates, starting this year.
"We have news for Al Franken: the joke is over," said Ortman, "We need to send Al Franken packing back to wherever it is he came from."
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)