Politics Friday: 1st District, 3rd District congressional candidates debate the issues

Minnesota's 1st District candidates Dan Feehan and Jim Hagedorn
U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn (right) and 1st District Democratic candidate Dan Feehan debate during a televised debate on Sept. 27, in North Mankato, Minn.
Gage Cureton for MPR News file

Updated: 3:15 p.m.

With Election Day less than three weeks away, Politics Friday with MPR News political editor Mike Mulcahy continued the series of 2020 congressional debates. The front-runners in the 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts took part in the telephone debates Friday.

In the 1st District, which stretches east to west along the Iowa border, incumbent Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn and Democrat Dan Feehan are in a rematch after Hagedorn narrowly won the seat in 2018.

1st Congressional District debate
by Politics Friday

The two candidates in the 1st District sparred over the state and federal government’s response to the pandemic.

Feehan criticized the federal government for lacking a national plan to address the pandemic.

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"We are nine months in in what has been a abject failure at the federal level and of Congress to develop and execute a national strategy for what is a national problem,” Feehan said. “We are going to continue to struggle and right now … literally every state around us is doing worse. And we are entering a third peak of this. We are stunted as a nation, our health is stunted, our economy is stunted, our lives are stunted.”

Hagedorn, on the other hand, ripped DFL Gov. Tim Walz's response, which included closing some businesses for a time.

"The lockdown policies of the governor have hurt more than they've helped,” Hagedorn said. “We need to open up this state, get people back in schools, we can do it safely, look out for those most vulnerable but let the younger people, who have about a 99.9 something percent chance of survival, get out and do their business.”

The two also disagreed on whether Minnesotans should be required to wear face coverings in indoor public places.

"I think that individuals and private entities should make their own decisions," Hagedorn said.

Feehan suggested the mandate is in the interest of public health, saying “when it comes to masks it has been clearly shown that it prevents further spread."

Ethics and campaign finance violation charges have also been flying back-and-forth in the race and came up again during Friday’s debate. So did other topics like the farm economy, and health care.  

Two portraits of men side by side.
Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District incumbent DFL Rep. Dean Phillips (left) and his Republican challenger Kendall Qualls.
Courtesy of campaigns

In the 3rd District, which encompasses much of the western Twin Cities suburbs, Republican Kendall Qualls is challenging incumbent DFL Rep. Dean Phillips.

3rd Congressional District debate
by Politics Friday

During their first debate Friday, Phillips defended his claim that he's politically moderate against claims otherwise from Qualls. Phillips defeated long-time Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen two years ago and pledged to work with Democrats and Republicans.

Qualls claimed Phillips has not done that.

"When you look at the voting record you'll see that my opponent aligns himself with the far left of his party,” he said.

Phillips defended himself, saying that he voted against the latest Democratic-controlled House pandemic relief bill.

"I am one of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans who joined the House Problems Solvers Caucus and we are building bridges across partisan divides,” said Phillips.

The two also sparred over health care. Phillips said he wants to allow people to buy into government-run health care programs.

"The Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — was the best policy we had in our generation to expand care to more Americans. I favor the private and nonprofit delivery of care in America and I always will,” Phillips said. “I believe in a public option. It combines conservative thinking with liberal thinking. That we should have more freedom to choose and more competition.”

Qualls said such a "public option" would hurt federal programs and weaken private insurance markets.

“We need to focus on competition. For the last 10 years we've had hospitals as well as health plans consolidated,” he said. “Whenever you have consolidation in the marketplace, you have increased prices and then lastly it leads to affordability. We plan on covering those with preexisting conditions and we want to make sure we have a safety net for those who can't access or can't afford affordable health.”

Use the audio player above to listen to the full debates on Politics Friday.