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DFLers appear in 8th District debate

DFL candidates for the 8th Congressional District Jeff Anderson (left), Tarryl C

Nearly one week before they face each other in the Aug. 14 DFL primary, the three DFL candidates who want to unseat Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., called for greater investment in education and infrastructure and pledged support for Social Security and Medicare.

Appearing before a largely Democratic audience that found its way through a maze of construction barricades surrounding Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Jeff Anderson, Tarryl Clark and Rick Nolan took only the mildest of jabs at each other as they answered questions for 90 minutes at Debate Minnesota’s forum in the John Chalberg Theatre.

Nolan, a former U.S. congressman and Brainerd native who is the DFL’S endorsed candidate, thanked his rivals for engaging in a civil campaign and criticized the intense partisanship of Washington, D.C. The crowd adhered to ground rules laid down by moderator Lisa Paxton, when she called for any cheering to be saved for the end. When the candidates concluded one Nolan supporter stood up with an orange sign that read “We need Rick.”

“The country is in big trouble,” Nolan said in his opening comments. “The rich are getting richer. The poor are getting poorer and the middle class is getting crushed.”

Anderson, a former Duluth City Council president and a fourth-generation Iron Ranger, recalled his father being laid off from his mining job in 1982 and called for an investment in manufacturing that could lead to what he termed as the next generation of prosperity.

“This race is about jobs,” he said.

Clark, a former state senator, criticized the protection of big oil and Wall Street interests and talked of her work with youth ministries and Habitat for Humanity.

“I think Washington’s broken,” she said.

They all pledged to secure Medicare and Social Security, defining those programs as earned benefits.

Anderson called for an increase in the $106,000 yearly cap for contributions to Social Security. Nolan argued for reordering priorities, maintaining that 58 percent of each federal tax dollar goes to the nation’s “wars of choice” and “nation-building.”

Clark said that while there are problems to be faced with entitlements, resources could be allocated differently.

“This is our money,” Clark said. “It’s earned.”

All three DFLers favored more government spending on infrastructure, including a greater emphasis on rail transportation.

“Investment in infrastructure creates jobs and connects our cities,” Anderson said.

“The original stimulus bill was way too light on infrastructure,” Clark said.

The infrastructure discussion prompted Clark to thank Nolan for mentioning the Northern Lights Express, a planned rail project from the Twin Cities to Duluth, because she had worked on that in the Legislature.

“It’s too bad you didn’t fund it,” Nolan said.

While answering questions from the audience, Clark and Anderson called for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Nolan said: “Get out of the war now.”

Nolan said he supported same-sex marriages. Anderson said he supported marriage equality and Clark said she supported the freedom of people to marry the person they loved.

None of the candidates called for specific gun restrictions.

Anderson said he was a hunter and had a conceal/carry permit and supported Second Amendment Rights. He wanted to see guns kept out of the hands of persons with serious mental health problems and criminals.

Clark called for upholding the Second Amendment but also emphasized crime control and enforcing laws that are on the books.

Nolan said he also supported the Second Amendment but said he’d like to see assault rifles banned.

“I don’t need one to shoot a duck,” Nolan said.

Immigration was described by the candidates as a tough problem.

Nolan wanted to see a path toward citizenship for illegal immigrants and strong penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants. Anderson said employers should be held accountable and also wanted a path to citizenship. Clark said the borders should be secured and called for fairness.

In his closing argument, Nolan said that with his experience in and out of Washington, D.C., he was never better prepared for the job.

“I believe I can make a difference,” he said.

Anderson noted the Mesabi Daily News and the Duluth News Tribune had endorsed him and had praised his style of leadership, which involved more listening, and his work in the trenches.

Clark said the nation was at a precipice.

“I want to be your advocate and your partner,” she said.

The debate was moderated by Paxton, chief executive officer of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber since 1995, and Steve Sabin a recent graduate of Central Lakes College and president of Minnesota State College Student Association.

Since 2004, Debate Minnesota has hosted nearly 50 debates in communities across the state including, debates for the U. S. Senate, Minnesota congressional districts, governor’s office and many Minnesota legislative district races.

Debate Minnesota is a nonprofit led by a multi-partisan board of directors include former U.S. Sen. David Durenberger; former Minnesota Secretary of State Joan Anderson Growe, former Senate Majority Leader Roger D. Moe, former State Senators Roy Terwilliger, Sheila Kiscaden, Don Betzold and Myron Orfield, former Speaker Bob Vanasek, former State Representatives Randy Demmer, Barb Sykora, former Commissioner Alice Seagren, former gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner, former MPR host Gary Eichten, MNSCU board member Brett Anderson and Debate Minnesota Founder Will Haddeland. 

More information about Debate Minnesota may be obtained by visiting

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860