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Candidates speak about renewables, budgets and abortion at TWEC forum

The candidate forum is an election year standard hosted by the Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative in order to allow voters to meet and ask questions of those hoping to be elected.

Candidate Forum 2.jpg
Guests asked candidates questions of concern during the Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative candidate forum on Sept. 8, 2022, in Verndale.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal
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VERNDALE — A candidate forum hosted by Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative welcomed in state and federal candidates to share their views on topics related to the cooperative as well as questions from those attending on Thursday, Sept. 8.

Over 40 area residents attended the gathering and heard from eight candidates including: Jen Schultz (DFL) hoping to unseat U.S. Representative for District 8 Pete Stauber (R) (Stauber did not attend); A. John Peters (DFL) and Paul Utke, (R) , both vying for the Dist. 5 Senate seat; Jordan Rasmussen, Republican, running for Dist. 9 Senate; Gregg Hendrickson (IP) and Mike Wiener (R) both running for the Dist. 5B House seat; Tom Murphy (R) Dist. 9B House candidate; and Mary Franson (R) Dist. 12B House candidate.

All state and federal candidates from within the Todd-Wadena territory are invited, but not all attended. The event lasted over 2 hours.

A couple topics that all agreed on were that students should be allowed to open enroll, city’s should not be able to take electric cooperative territory (at least not without fair compensation) and that social security income should not be taxed. Other topics largely fell along party lines.

Here is a look at some of the questions and answers that touched a chord with the group.


When asked, all the candidates took turns sharing that they were pro-life in one way or another.

Where do you stand on the issue of life from conception to natural death?

Hendrickson: He said that as a veteran, he and other veterans went overseas to ensure freedoms. He was not interested in taking away freedom from half the population.

Wiener: “We need to regain the sanctity of life.” He said he was very much pro-life as a father of nine.

Murphy: “I think the real issue is whether or not you think it’s alive. When do you start and stop?” He said that the difference is that pro-life people believe it’s a life from conception. He did not say where he stood on that definition.

Schultz: “I hope we can get to a place where we don’t need abortions. We need to prevent that from happening.” She wanted to reach a compromise where women’s lives could be saved. “I’m pro-life because I want to make investments to keep people healthy throughout their lifetime.”

Franson: Her response was to focus on fraud in the state. She explained that $400 million went missing from a fund that was supposed to go towards feeding children. She went on to explain that no Republican is going to be able to take away the right to an abortion in Minnesota because it’s in the constitution.

Peters: He is interested in reducing abortions but was not convinced that outlawing abortions would solve that. “The places where abortions are illegal, they have more abortions,” Peters said. He also felt that he should have the right to end his life if he wants to.


Rasmussen: He shared he is pro-life and has worked on several policy issues to assist families in having and caring for their children.

Other responses

What would you do with the budget surplus?

Candidates struggled to answer what they would do with it, but spoke heavily about cutting taxes to stop the surplus from happening.

Utke spoke largely about how it’s not known how much of a surplus there will be. He felt that the taxes should go back to taxpayers. He felt that there should be tax relief passed.

Rasmussen said he felt there should be permanent tax relief. He said that social security tax needs to end and everyone's income taxes need to be cut.

Hendrickson said that broadband needs to be fixed as he still does not have high speed internet south of Long Prairie. He noted that property taxes and infrastructure are the two key things he would focus on. He felt that the two-party system was stopping this surplus from coming back and being used to support taxpayers. That’s why he is running as an independent.

Wiener said the state has been getting a surplus for the last 10 years. He said the overtaxing needs to end. “It’s not working, it’s driving business out of the state.” He called for a permanent cut to taxes.

Schultz said the surplus could be used to pay for infrastructure. She gave a lesson about taxes and said that while some states have lower taxes, they have higher costs in fees.


Peters said that 80% of those pulling social security aren’t being taxed. But he still supported eliminating it for the other 20%.

Franson said permanent tax cuts are needed. She felt they could still do great things while cutting taxes.

What is renewable energy’s role in the entire energy portfolio?

Rasmussen said it has to be an all of the above approach that allows for reliable and affordable energy. He said that hydro power and nuclear power should be given equal footing in the energy market in Minnesota. “We have to make sure that when we have that polar vortex that we’re not doing what California is doing right now, which is turning off the power, rolling black outs, telling people to reduce their usage.”

Hendrickson: “We are making some progress on that but I think we got a long way to go on that.”

Wiener: “What made our country what it is today is cheap energy.” He is impressed with the advances made in renewables but considers them still unreliable. “We have regulated ourselves out of cheap energy and it will be to the detriment of our country if we don’t change that soon.”

Murphy: “I think renewable energy just can’t meet the need.” He said in general that they need to use what they have. He said renewables should be an option but that they should look at all options.

Schultz: She said renewable energy is a big win in Minnesota as the minerals needed can be found here. “We see fossil fuels companies transitioning and investing in clean energy. They’re no longer drilling because they know that one drill, it takes over 10 years to get a return in investment.”

Franson: “Renewable energy isn’t the panacea that people wanted to believe it is.” She said solar is not a renewable energy and that child labor is used to mine the minerals to make solar panels. “It is not the government’s job to tell you to save energy,” she added.

Peters: “We are underestimating the ability of our engineers to do things properly.” He said the cost of solar will soon be dropping even more and battery technology will continue to advance making renewables all the more promising.
He added that he has solar panels made in the USA and enjoys when Todd-Wadena Electric pays him for his energy production.

Utke: Utke said that there is a place for renewables but did not want to see it mandated. “Government get out of the way, let the industry work it so they bring up the ratios of renewables with the baseline."

Related Topics: ELECTION 2022VERNDALE
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