(Andover, Minnesota) Several candidates have stepped forward after Senator Branden Petersen’s announcement that he is leaving his position representing Senate District 35, covering Andover, Anoka, Coon Rapids, and Ramsey. The four candidates are Jim Abeler, Andy Aplikowski, Don Huizenga, and Brad Sunderland. On Tuesday evening delegates and citizens had their first chance to see all four together as official candidates at a forum hosted by the Liberty Tea Party Patriots, a Tea Party-aligned organization pushing for personal and economic freedoms. This was the first and only forum before the endorsing convention Saturday. I moderated the forum alongside Ken McAuliffe of mspfound. We asked candidates to distinguish themselves from one another while discussing issues like state sovereignty, Planned Parenthood funding, transportation priorities, and the Metropolitan Council.
All four of the candidates discussed their views on transportation issues with immense passion. Abeler began by addressing a controversial vote he made in 2008, explaining, “Just to get it out of the way, I got famous for casting a vote in 2008 that I believe was the right vote at the right time” and that the vote was placed during a, “different time” saying that he would not make that same vote today, stating, “when that bill comes up next year I’m not going to vote for it.” Abeler also said he believes some of the funding should come from the general fund.
Huizenga believes that lawmakers have not done enough to address the transportation needs for the district, saying, “We’ve been waiting long enough, we’ve been waiting longer” and that “people waste hours of their lives sitting in traffic from the inability of legislators to be able to deal with the fact that we need a regular interchange coming up 169 and across on 10.”
Sunderland said he would better prioritize how to spend revenue raised for transportation, saying, “Our issue is not revenue. We don’t have a revenue problem when it comes to transportation, it’s how we’ve allocated those dollars.”
Aplikowski said he would seek a position on the Transportation and Public Safety Committee. Aplikowski further explained his stance on the issue, saying lawmakers should “throw out” the current funding formula for transportation. Aplikowski also said some of the funding should come from the general fund, bonding, and stopping the government from, “spending money on themselves.”
The candidates were also asked to discuss if they had any plans to defund and regulate Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics throughout the state. Sunderland believes that in order to gather support across the aisle that lawmakers need to “sway public opinion” so that Democrats will support the issue as well.
Huizenga says the way to address the issue is to “bring Planned Parenthood out of the grant system” explaining that Planned Parenthood could be defunded by placing it under the regulatory guideline of the budget system on the Health and Human Services Committee.
Aplikowski addressed an Alpha News Story regarding the University of Minnesota and their fetal tissue purchases, saying he will not vote for any bill that allocates money to the University of Minnesota until further investigation is done in to their actions. Aplikowski stated he would support defunding abortion clinics in the state.
Abeler explained that while the Senate is in the minority that there is not much that can be done about the issue but did say that something might be accomplished if the district re-elects the current representatives and maintain the majority in the House.
Though they gave slightly different responses, all four candidates agreed that they would like to reform or abolish the Metropolitan Council if given the opportunity, and would push for stronger state sovereignty.
During the post-event-mingling I was informed by a number of delegates that the forum “helped to solidify” their decision on who to choose, but they did not say who they were going to endorse. The candidates are heading to the endorsing convention on Saturday. If there is a primary it will be held on January 12th, with the special election taking place February 9th, just under a month before the start of the next legislative session.
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