No sharp differences in the 7th Congressional District debateby Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
The candidates in Minnesota's 7th District faced off this week in their only debate of the campaign. Incumbent Collin Peterson and Republican Challenger Glen Menze found found agreement on many issues.
Moorhead, Minn. — Rep. Collin Peterson, (D), is seeking his tenth term in the U.S. House. Republican Glen Menze is challenging Peterson for the second time.
The candidates faced each other for the first and only time this campaign season in a recorded debate to be aired on Prairie Public Television October 17th.
The candidates found many points to agree on. Peterson voted twice against the $700 billion financial industry bailout recently approved by Congress.
Republican challenger Glen Menze said he would have voted the same way.
The candidates also agreed on the need for energy independence. Peterson said he wants every option on the table.
"I'm for drilling, I'm for coal, I'm for nuclear, I'm for biofuels, solar, wind, said Peterson. "Anything you can name to get us energy independent."
Peterson helped write a farm bill which he pointed out, includes $1 billion in loan guarantees and incentives to help develop the next generation of biofuels.
Republican challenger Glen Menze contended Peterson voted against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Peterson countered that he voted against opening the entire refuge to oil exploration, but has consistently voted for limited drilling in the refuge.
Menze said environmental regulations are preventing construction of new desperately needed oil refineries, and he accused Peterson of blocking refinery projects. "The big thing for me, and Collin has voted against this consistently, is that we need new refineries in this country," Menze said. "You can see what happened in the south, the gas shortages once the hurricanes came in."
Peterson responded that he was not aware of any votes against refinery projects.
"If I did, I didn't know I voted that way," Peterson said. "I agree these environmental regulations are totally out of control and we've allowed them to get way out of wack."
Rep. Peterson chairs the House Agriculture Committee and played a key role in writing the new farm bill.
Republican Glen Menze said he supports parts of the farm bill, but doesn't like the fact that it guarantees federal payments to wealthy farmers.
"The problem with the farm bill, I've been a big supporter of risk management tools and not having the same kind of depression-era farm bill we have and move on to something different, because it picks winners and losers," said Menze.
Both candidates agreed on the need for more reform of farm policy.
Peterson said he wanted a more fundamental change in farm policy. But he says southern lawmakers had controlled the agriculture committee for 50 years before he assumed the committee chair, and they refused to accept significant restructuring of some farm programs.
"We understand these problems," Peterson said. "We worked on this very hard to make more changes. In the end the southerners, you could only push them so far. This bill moved us in the right direction."
Peterson has easily won the past several elections and he faces another low-key campaign this year with little advertising by either candidate.
Campaign finance reports show Peterson has raised nearly $1 million, while Menze has less than $10,000 in contributions.
Menze last challenged Peterson in 2000, when Peterson won by a two-to-one margin.
- Morning Edition, 10/10/2008, 7:25 a.m.