Compromise or tax cuts: Senate District 9 candidates describe how they would govern if elected
In interviews with the Detroit Lakes Tribune, Minnesota Senate District 9 candidates gave contrasting thoughts on how they would approach governing and representing residents as the general election draws near and voters head to the polls through early voting.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story stated Rasmusson’s rural broadband bill did not receive a final vote before the end of the 2022 legislative session. However, the bill was
combined into the omnibus agriculture and drought relief package
passed by both state legislative bodies and signed into law by Gov. Walz in May 2022.
DETROIT LAKES — The 2022 general election is one month away and candidates for Minnesota Senate District 9 provided stark differences as to how they would govern.
In interviews with the Detroit Lakes Tribune, both candidates, Jordan Rasmusson, GOP, and Cornel Walker, DFL, said they plan on door-knocking and talking to as many voters as they can over the next month.
"What I'm offering to voters on Nov. 8th is proven conservative leadership that gets things done," said Rasmusson. "I have a record of getting results for the people of our area and I've passed a number of bills that have helped our area, including, expanding mental health care access, extending high-speed internet and also helping communities with rural economic development."
Rasmusson is finishing his first term in the state legislature as the representative for Minnesota House District 8A . In 2020, he won 66% of votes and defeated DFL candidate Brittney Johnson by 32 points with 24,275 votes cast.
On the other hand, Cornel Walker is new to politics.
"I ran because I got really tired of Republicans and Democrats saying, 'no,' to each other simply because the idea arose from the other party," said Walker.
Walker worked as a trial lawyer for 42 years and is also a trained mediator, something he believes can help him bridge compromises between the two political party juggernauts for the benefit of the voters.
"I want to cross the aisle and sit down with Republicans and find areas where we can begin to compromise and then compromise," said Walker. "That is what mediation is about, trying to bring people together, and move forward as opposed to heading down to the courthouse to try a lawsuit."
When asked if true compromise was possible between the deeply divided parties, Walker said he wouldn't have run for the office if he thought otherwise.
"I firmly believe that you just got to work at it," he said. "You can't just try it one time and have someone say, 'no,' to your idea and give up. You've got to try it over, and over, and over again and you'll find a way to get together."
Walker also described a divorce mediation between a couple who didn't want the other to "win" anything in the divorce. Using lists, simple questions and the process of elimination, he was able to secure a fair divorce agreement without going through an official court process.
"The problem we have right now, in my opinion, is we don't listen to the other side," he said. "We pretend to listen, we pretend to hear, but we don't. So the trick to me in a good, successful mediation, or any compromise, is to really hear what the other side is saying and what their desires are."
Walker said, out of all the door-knocking and voters he has spoken to during this campaign, the top issue for them is to have the two political parties stop "bickering" and actually get things done for Minnesotans. He added his listening campaign with voters also helps formulate policy positions and compromises to represent them better.
"I want to hear what people have to say and it's not up to me to tell people what they are going to have done for them," said Walker. "We need to stop (telling them) and listen to what people in Senate District 9 need from the legislature."
For his part, Rasmusson said he would advocate for permanent tax cuts for all Minnesotans, since the state has a record $9.25 billion budget surplus — which he sees as part of a systemic over-taxing problem.
"I also believe that given our state's record budget surplus that we need to deliver permanent tax relief for Minnesotans," said Rasmusson. He added he also authored a bill in the Minnesota House that would exempt Social Security income from state taxes, but, that bill, along with other legislative priorities, failed to receive final passage before the legislative session ended in May.
Rasmusson said the tax cuts would provide financial relief to many taxpayers as the cost of essential items has increased in recent months due to inflationary and supply chain issues.
The biggest issue facing voters this election cycle, Rasmusson said, is inflation.
"Whether it's their energy bill going up, their receipt at the grocery store going up, it's really impacting people's day-to-day lives and just being able to afford their day-to-day life," he said.
Rasmusson continued: "For me, it has to be permanent tax relief, not just one-time checks. We have shown over the last decade that we've had a structural surplus. We've had a surplus year after year, and that tells me that we're over-taxing Minnesotans ... and especially in this area when we feel competitive pressures from North Dakota, South Dakota and other states, we just need to make sure it's more affordable to raise a family, retire, and grow a business here in Minnesota."
Rasmusson said he'd been working on a bill with a team at Arvig to extend broadband into rural areas of the state through a grant program that would allow broadband providers to apply for up to a $25,000 reimbursement from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development per each line extension project .
"That will be a really powerful tool to extend broadband out to folks in Otter Tail County and in our region who don't yet have broadband," he said.
Rasmusson faced an August primary challenge for the Senate District 9 Republican nomination from Nathan Miller, who alleges Rasmusson was complicit in a delegate reassignment cover-up involving the Otter Tail County Republican Party following their February caucuses. Rasmusson defeated Miller 51.6% (5,738 votes) to 48.4% (5,385 votes) in the primary to become the official Republican candidate, but Miller is now mounting a write-in campaign for the Nov. 8 general election.
When asked for comment on the alleged Otter Tail County Republican delegate controversy, Rasmusson said, "I'm honored to be the Republican endorsed candidate for Senate District 9 and I was also humbled to receive support from Republican primary voters across the five counties that are in Senate District 9 and it's 35 days until election day and I'm focused on talking with voters about the issues that they care about."
Election day is Nov. 8, but absentee and early voting are already underway across Minnesota.