Walz, Hagedorn face off in 1st District race

Walz, Hagedorn face off in 1st District race #330

The race for Minnesota’s 1st District is between an increasingly powerful Democratic congressman seeking a fifth term and an upstart Republican candidate who outhustled his endorsed opponent to win an August primary.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, who served 24 years on the Army National Guard and has been a high-school teacher and coach in Mankato, has made his mark in Congress working on veterans and agricultural issues, among others. He also helped secure federal support for Winona’s interstate bridge.

Jim Hagedorn, from Blue Earth, is a businessman who once served as legislative assistant to a former Minnesota congressman. His father also once represented southern Minnesota in Congress. In the primary, Hagedorn beat GOP-endorsed Aaron Miller after initially abiding by the endorsement, then jumping back into the race, saying Miller wasn’t prepared to run a full-time campaign.

Building on a record

If re-elected, Walz said he will continue to push for accountability in the Department of Veterans Affairs, and he has criticized the department for failing to deliver on patient health amid the well-publicized scandal where VA hospitals attempted to cover up long wait times and management problems. Walz announced Tuesday that his latest veterans’ bill, one aimed at suicide prevention, will head to a hearing in November.

“Filling out the paperwork became more important than the veteran being healthy,” he said of the scandal.

He said the recent veterans’ reform bill, while not solving all the problems, gave the VA tools to achieve accountability and efficiency. He said he’d like to see a policy of constant evaluation and improvement.

Regarding the Affordable Care Act, now one year old, Walz said he’s heard success stories from folks who would have been denied coverage without the ACA. He’s also heard complaints about rising rates, especially from those in southeast Minnesota, but he said he’s not willing to return to the previous system.

“We’re seeing the growing pains,” he said. “Health care reform is an ongoing thing.”

As the system improves, Walz said, he’ll continue to stress preventive care.

“The biggest bang for the buck comes on the front end,” he said.

Walz said he’s proud of the work that led to the passage of the Farm Bill in early 2014, saying it will be effective and reflects the needs of southern Minnesota. In addition, he said he was proud of its bipartisan nature and the emphasis on environmental and conservation concerns as well as concerns of commercial farmers.

Walz called attention to support he has received from conservation and industry groups for the bill. “It proves to me there’s win-wins out there,” he said.

Regarding federal and state powers, Walz said there are some areas where the federal government over-reaches, but others where state and federal lawmakers are stronger together, especially in times of emergency.

A focus on government’s scope

For Hagedorn, federal powers is a source of big concern. Hagedorn said the focal issue of his campaign is the size and scope of the federal government, which he believes has grown too big and too powerful.

“There’s a huge philosophical difference between us,” he said of himself and Walz.

Citing health care and energy policy, Hagedorn said much of the power has been taken away from the private sector, with the result that regulations are being piled on — making it hard for people to do business and increasing costs.

“I want to take the power from Washington, D.C., and return it to the states and the people,” he said.

He said if elected, he would focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act, loosening EPA regulations on coal power plants, and simplifying taxes. He said he’d like to see more investment in infrastructure that could bring the costs of energy down, such as the Keystone XL pipeline.

“The things that Congressman Walz has voted for are driving costs up for people,” he said.

Hagedorn said he’s concerned that the country hasn’t been adequately protected from terrorists and diseases. He said the Obama administration’s lack of accountability on tracking people who overstay visas has resulted in opportunities for terrorists.

Hagedorn said he’s been pleased with how his campaign has gone so far and pointed out he has made more than 200 stops in the district over the past five months.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Hagedorn as a former federal lobbyist. While Hagedorn was formerly employed by the government as a congressional affairs liaison for the Department of the Treasury, he was never a lobbyist.

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