4th District hopefuls make their pitches

Gazette Photo by: Elissa Cottle Fourth Congressional District candidates Betty McCollum, left, Tony Hernandez and Steve Carlson relax at the end of their forum Wednesday evening at Stillwater City Hall.

Independent Steve Carlson warned against our “fiscal cliff” and Chinese competition. Republican Tony Hernandez prioritized less spending — including immediate end to war in Afghanistan. Democrat incumbent Betty McCollum emphasized investment in children’s education and infrastructure.

The three Fourth Congressional District candidates made their pitches to voters at Wednesday’s Stillwater Gazette-sponsored forum at Stillwater City Hall moderated by Marguerite Rheinberger.

As the Independence Party candidate, Carlson said he’s needed in partisan Washington, D.C., because the Fourth District “is changing.” Formerly managing editor of “Asian American Press” and a Vietnam War vet, Carlson said that  “China may pass us” in industry and “we want to win this race.”

Carlson urged lower taxes and privatizing the auto industry, and suggested year-round schools and tax credits for private school. He called hybrid cars “smart” but also supports American oil development. He added that energy research could be done by “private academia” rather than the government. He said he’s concerned about drought — “I don’t care what caused it” — and “water infrastructure” should be built up.

Carlson stressed his support of state initiatives favoring voter identification cards and heterosexual marriage.

Hernandez, a former Wells Fargo finance officer, said bailouts of Wall Street banks were wrong and a primary reason he jumped into politics. He said he would promote ending subsidies to both oil and “green energy” companies. He said the federal government should “get out of the way” of business and pointed to the oil prosperity enjoyed now in North Dakota without government help, with “jobs galore there.”

Rather than costly wars, Hernandez said, “I believe our strength and our security is at our borders with Mexico and Canada” and if elected he would “focus like a laser” to prevent “dirty bombs” smuggled through border gaps. He also said he believed the nuclear weapon threat by Iran is overblown.

Hernandez said cutting taxes for the rich would only be a “drop in the bucket” and savings in defense, coupled with more manufacturing jobs, would help the economy.

At the same time, Hernandez said he would not want federal budget changes to hurt seniors or the poor. He said he wants to strengthen, rather than change, Social Security and Medicare programs. He is also concerned about the “enormous achievement gap” among students, saying parents want more choices, including public, charter, private and home schooling.

McCollum is in her sixth term in the U.S. House. Before being elected to Congress, she served the Minnesota House eight years. She favors letting tax cuts for the wealthy expire, decreasing defense spending and investing in improving schools, roads and bridges and green technology. She pointed out that solar panels heating a Ramsey County detention facility were manufactured in Minnesota. She said upgrading school buildings would save taxpayers in lower energy costs for schools. She said oil companies do not need tax breaks and that revenue should go toward solar and wind projects.

McCollum said a strong middle class is “the promise of America” and “I will fight hard to protect social security and Medicare and for a first-class education for children.”

McCollum also said she would continue standing up for “basic rights” for workers and women. She pointed to an improving economy in Minnesota, including a lower than average unemployment rate  of 5.8 percent and an up-tick in the housing market. The Democratic Congresswoman said she has worked with Republicans on certain efforts, such as the problem of Asian carp threatening the health of the Mississippi River.