When a panel of judges redrew the state’s political boundaries earlier this year, Washington County went from being completely in the 6th Congressional District to getting carved into three congressional districts.
The northern third of the county remains in the 6th Congressional District, where voters will choose either Republican incumbent Michele Bachmann or her Democratic challenger, St. Cloud businessman Jim Graves.
Voters in the southern third of the county are in the 2nd Congressional District. There, they will vote for incumbent Republican John Kline or Democratic challenger Mike Obermueller.
The middle third of the county, including Stillwater, Lake Elmo, Oak Park Heights and Bayport, is now in the 4th Congressional District, which in recent years covered Ramsey County.
This means voters from Grant and Stillwater Township south to Woodbury, Afton, Newport and northern St. Paul Park have a short time to become familiar with the three candidates seeking the 4th Congressional seat — incumbent Betty McCollum, and her challengers, Republican Tony Hernandez and Independence Party candidate Steve Carlson.
At this moment, experience is what the 4th Congressional District needs. Washington County as a whole faces important issues regarding its economy, growth and transportation in the coming years and the ECM Editorial Board believes McCollum is the best candidate to address those needs.
McCollum brings 12 years of Capitol Hill experience as she seeks her seventh congressional term. Prior to her election to Congress, McCollum served on the North St. Paul City Council and in the Minnesota Legislature.
While Hernandez lacks political experience, he has real-world experience working as an English teacher in South Korea for a year and as a former banker. He offers ideas on solving some of the nation’s most vexing problems minus the harsh conservative rhetoric heard from other Republican candidates.
Both Hernandez and McCollum recognize the seriousness of the political gridlock in Washington, D.C. Hernandez said that if elected, he would sit down with membe
rs of Congress on both sides of the aisle to seek compromise on issues.
That is something McCollum said she has consistently done since being elected to Congress. McCollum believes U.S. House members can break congressional gridlock by talking to each other. One example McCollum can cite is a bill she co-sponsored with Ohio Republican Steve LaTourette addressing invasive Asian carp in the Mississippi and Ohio river basins.
Neither McCollum nor Hernandez support extending the Bush tax cuts. McCollum does support middle-class tax cuts and higher taxes on upper-class incomes. Hernandez believes small businesses deserve and need tax cuts and that all taxpayers should face income tax increases as some parts of the Bush tax cuts expire.
What sets McCollum apart, however, is her recognition of grassroots issues facing Washington County and desire to help local officials find solutions. She recognizes the need for east metro officials to be at the table when growth discussions occur at the state level and that metro communities must work together to capture federal dollars for the entire region.
McCollum feels strongly about infrastructure. She wants balanced road-and-bridge replacement that works for the whole region rather than smaller areas. Although McCollum opposed the St. Croix River Crossing bridge project because of the bridge size, expense and potential environmental damage, she favors replacing the lift bridge.
Lastly, one revealing attribute about McCollum is her desire to eventually teach at the college level. It would be easy for the six-term congresswoman to finish her career as a
politician. That McCollum eventually plans to be a teacher is evidence that she looks to share knowledge and give back to the community around her.
Hernandez, while enthusiastic and offering some solid ideas relating to the Affordable Health Care Act, suffers from a lack of political experience that could be a stumbling block in Congress. He would benefit greatly from seeking a city coun
cil or school board seat and experiencing representation at the grassroots level.
Hernandez offers some excellent thoughts on making debt reduction a top priority and creating a permanent fix to the tax code to make more balanced and less complicated. But his overall lack of understanding of the farm bill and inability to illustrate his position on Medicare reform illustrate his inexperience.
For these reasons, we believe McCollum deserves your vote Nov. 6.
— This editorial is a product of the ECM Editorial Board.