Walz, Davis spar in Minn.'s 1st District

Incumbent candidate Tim Walz debates Brian Davis
Incumbent DFL Rep. Tim Walz debates Republican Brian Davis for Minnesota's 1st Congressional District seat.
MPR Photo/Sea Stachura

Standing in front of a crowd of about 100 people at a Rochester Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Walz and Davis made a striking contrast. Walz is stocky, with closely cropped hair and the verbal speed of a bullet train. Davis is tall, blonde and measured.

The two even sparred differently. Davis politely sniped at Walz's record on energy and the economy. Walz politely growled at Davis's use of Republican talking points.

The two shared the most similarities in their approaches to the government bail-outs. Walz voted against the $700 billion bail out package on the basis that it did not provide enough oversight or guarantee that taxpayers would get their money back.

"This bail-out bill and what happened to create this was a break down in personal responsibility from people who took loans to people who gave loans. It was a break down in oversight. How can we not see this stream roller coming at us? What we need to do is we need to bring that back into the situation. We need to make sure of that if we're going to have rules we're going to play by. I don't believe the government should be a player in the market, but there needs to be a referee on the field and there hasn't been one," Walz said.

Republican Brian Davis pointed out that Walz did vote to prop up mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He would not have voted for either bail-out, Davis said.

"We allowed institutions to over-leverage, we allowed individuals to get loans they didn't have the capacity to keep up with and pay for. We had an energy crisis that developed and that led to this housing crisis. I believe that a bail-out bill must first address some of these underlying problems including getting rid of the subprime lending practices that have developed in this country over the last 10 years," Davis said.

Concern over the future of social security has taken a back seat to the debate over the economy. President Bush hoped to privatize social security and would have allowed people to put their money into the stock market. Brian Davis argued that social security is still under-funded and the U.S. can either do something like increase payroll taxes to fund it, or privatize.

"I do support one idea that's worth investigating. It's a partial privatization, an optional privitization for younger workers. We did the same thing with 403b's. It's tied to the economy, to the health of the economy," Davis said.

Tim Walz claimed the huge declines in the stock market are evidence that privitization is not the answer.

"If you privatize, even the young workers, be very, very clear on this; the young workers are paying in to pay the retired workers now their money. So if you say I'm for paritial for privitatization, you're not partially pregnant. You're either privatized or your not," Walz said

When candidates weren't talking about the economy, they were talking about energy. The nation's energy plan needs to be more than 'a barrel of oil,' Walz said. He said he was part of a bipartisan effort to increase off-shore drilling and support for alternative energies.

"The key to this is not just drill here, drill now. It's drill here wisely. Use those resources to transition to alternative and sustainable future that creates jobs in America and takes the magnet of war from the Middle East away," Walz said.

Alternative energies like wind and ethanol would in turn support jobs in Minnesota, Walz said.

Davis is a strong proponent of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off-shore.

"I support an all-above energy policy. In addition to more drilling we need to utilize our coal resources. We have more coal reserves than any other country in the world. Over the last 30 to 40 years we have improved coal combustion much better than we have in the past," Davis said.

Davis says he supports alternative energies, but in previous interviews he has said that cars don't run on wind power.

Local issues were also part of the mix. Recently the Rochester Chamber of Commerce endorsed a plan for high speed rail from Rochester to the Twin Cities. Brian Davis said he would want to make sure that spending federal dollars on a rail line for 100,000 people would make fiscal sense. Walz said the rail line would be part of an investment in transportation.