6th District hopefuls debateby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
Republican Michele Bachmann, Democrat Patty Wetterling and John Binkowski of the Independence Party covered a wide range of issues Thursday night during a debate in Woodbury.
Woodbury, Minn. — The most friction of the debate came over the topic of health care. DFLer Patty Wetterling, a child safety advocate from St. Joseph wants to make quality health care available to every American. She says the goal is reachable in stages.
"I believe it's the responsibility of the insurance companies to provide affordable health care. They're making outrageous profits right now. They have to cover all the middle class families. I think it can be done when we share that responsibility," Wetterling said.
Wetterling also wants to scale back the profits drug companies are making through Medicare prescription drug benefits. Republican Michele Bachmann called Wetterling's plan "socialized medicine" that would bankrupt the federal government.
"Someone at the end of the day is paying the bill. And Patty Wetterling had said that the insurance companies need to provide health care for everyone. Now that's just ridiculous. Insurance companies providing health care to everyone, they'd just go bankrupt. If they don't have the money, they can't provide health care," Bachmann said.
Bachmann is a state senator from Stillwater who's promising to be a fiscal hawk in Washington. She wants to cut federal spending and taxes. Bachmann even criticized Congressional Republicans for adding to the nation's debt.
"We have to be very clear that we cannot continue to spend and spend and spend our way into oblivion. We have to look at tax cuts. We have to look at growing our economy. Tax cuts have worked to give us this growing economy, and I believe in them and will work to make the tax cuts permanent," Bachmann said.
Tax cuts are also on the agenda for Patty Wetterling, but only if they benefit the middle class. She claims Bachmann's wouldn't. IP candidate John Binkowski of St. Mary's Point wants to cut federal spending. He says one target is the defense budget.
"The $500 billion that we spend a year could probably be spent more efficiently. If we actually required the military and agencies related to operate with the same efficiency that we require of our schools, we could probably find a whole heck of a lot of money there," Binkowski said.
Binkowski supports what he describes as an "intellegent withdrawal" of American troops from Iraq. Bachmann says terrorism will only be deterred by staying the course in Iraq. Wetterling wants the troops brought home. She says more resources are needed to improve information gathering and communications in the war on terror.
"I believe it also has to do with law enforcement training and preparedness for this type of information as it comes in. This is a global war on terror. And I think what we've got to do is tie into the friendly countries around the world," she said. Wetterling ran for the seat two years ago, losing a close race to incumbent Rep. Mark Kennedy. Kennedy is running this year for the U.S. Senate. Binkowski has never run for elected office. His shoe-string campaign and political independence are points of pride.
"The great problems we have won't be solved by the minds that created them. We've got two campaigns on this stage that are being run by the minds that created them and we've got one that's being run from Minnesota," Binkowski said.
A poll released earlier this week showed Bachmann with a nine percentage point lead in the 6th district race. The SurveyUSA poll, commissioned by KSTP television, measured Bachmann's support at 50 percent, compared to 41 percent for Wetterling. Binkowski had five percent. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3.9 percent.