This summer, I have listened to people at over 50 public events across southern Minnesota, from Winona to Luverne. Our new First Congressional District is rich in diversity and its people have many points of view. One theme, however, is clear: folks here want leadership on the tough issues that face our communities and our country today.
Locally, there has been no more divisive issue than the DM&E. When the issue first arose years ago, the time was ripe for this District's Representative to roll up his sleeves, bring people together, and work to hammer out a common position that would have enhanced our bargaining position with the DM&E throughout southern Minnesota. That kind of "consensus building" is hard work - I know, I did it for 14 years, working with Democrats and Republicans on national security issues at the White House, the State Department, and the U.S. Senate. But "consensus building" is the kind of leadership southern Minnesotan's want. To wait until now to take a position on the DM&E - after the issue has divided our communities, been decided at the Federal level, and been thrown into the courts - is like waiting for the last two minutes of a lopsided football game before waging a bet.
We have also paid a price for a lack of leadership at the national level on fiscal policy. It would have taken leadership last year to oppose the Administration's "Enron-like" budget projections and lopsided tax cuts favoring the wealthy, and instead demand that the government adhere to previous commitments to: protect Social Security and Medicare, and not spend this surplus on tax cuts or other programs; provide a prescription drug benefit to seniors; and finally provide the government's full share of funding for special education. This too did not happen, and many voters - Democrats, Independents, Greens and Republicans - are asking, "Why?"
Finally, overseas, no issue will have as great an impact on our security, our economy, and peace in the Middle East as the question of whether to wage war against Iraq. Saddam Hussein is an evil man: he has inflicted tremendous harm on his own people, and attacked a neighboring state. That said, the people of southern Minnesota want and deserve a forthright discussion over whether war with Iraq is the "right war, at the right place, at the right time." These are questions that need to be asked now by this District's Representative. As I said last week to a group of about 50 young Rochester voters, the time to thoroughly examine so consequential a policy is before, not after, the United States has committed its youth, its resources, and its prestige overseas.
I am running for Congress because Minnesotans in the First District want a Representative who will reach across party lines to find sensible solutions to our nation's challenges. I am honored to be participating as a candidate in this year's elections, and I look forward to many more trips across the District, discussing issues, and the question of leadership, before November 5th.
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