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Smith, Housley and primary challengers meet at farm forum

August 7, 2018

REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and the fellow Democrats and Republicans angling for her seat are trying to win support from farmers and their parties.

Smith and the four other candidates running to finish former Sen. Al Franken’s term all met Tuesday in a forum at FarmFest in Redwood Falls, Minnesota. The debate also featured Republican front runner and state Sen. Karin Housley and GOP challenger Bob Anderson. Joining Smith on the Democratic side were Richard Painter and Nick Leonard.

Franken resigned his seat last December after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced. His term ends in 2020.

Smith repeatedly invoked her work on the farm bill currently stuck in Congress amid partisan disputes over food stamps, the Star Tribune reported . She also said she has fought for rural broadband and renewable energy, and said that it’s important to fight efforts to weaken protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“It’s so important that we figure out a way of moving beyond the stigma that still exists around treatment for mental health,” Smith said, noting the stress that farmers are under.

Housley drew upon the time she spent on a dairy farm growing up, saying reducing regulations on water and health care could improve farmers’ livelihood.

During the Obama administration, “you had so many regulations placed on you, your health care costs rose, and now you’re feeling it,” Housley said.

All five candidates raised concerns about President Donald Trump’s trade moves.

“We have a reckless president who has commenced a reckless trade war,” Painter said.

The candidates all voiced support for funding infrastructure. Smith said that she has talked to people across Minnesota, especially in rural areas, who can’t get their products to market because of a lack of infrastructure.

Anderson, a dental technician from Hastings, said he would only serve for a maximum of two terms if elected, and highlighted his status outside of the political world.

“I just think people are tired of the status quo,” Anderson said. “They’re looking for something new . Why not try an outsider?”

Leonard stressed his common experiences with struggling residents.

“We need someone who’s going to represent all Minnesotans, not just the wealthy one percent, and I can do that because I’m one of you,” he said.

Minnesota’s primary election is Aug. 14.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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