Voter guide: See 1st District candidates' stances on abortion, inflation, more

A collage of three political candidates
DFL challenger Jeff Ettinger (left), Legal Marijuana Now candidate Richard Reisdorf and Republican U.S. Rep. Brad Finstad compete for the 1st Congressional District of Minnesota.
Courtesy Images

Voters in Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District may feel some “Groundhog Day” vibes on Nov. 8; three of the candidates from the summer’s special election are on the ballot again for the general election race in a redrawn district.

The winner of the Aug. 9 special election race, Republican Brad Finstad, is facing (again) DFLer Jeff Ettinger, and Richard Reisdorf with the Legal Marijuana Now Party. Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party candidate Brian Abrahamson is a new candidate on the November ballot.

Ettinger, the former CEO of Hormel Foods, received 46.1 percent of the special election vote according to Ballotpedia, coming within four points of Finstad. Reisdorf, a U.S. Navy Veteran and a member of the Disabled American Veterans, received 1.3 percent of the vote.

The August election was held six months after the death of U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who represented the district.

Finstad, a farmer, is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in agricultural education. He has worked as executive director for the Center for Rural Policy and Development and as area director of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, and served in the Minnesota House in the 2000s. The Trump administration appointed him in 2017 to the role of state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development in Minnesota.

Ettinger moved from California to Austin, Minn., more than 30 years ago to join Hormel and retired from the company in 2016 after 11 years at the helm. He currently heads the Hormel Foundation, which donates funds to charities in Austin. He received his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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MPR News also reached out to all four candidates to ask their stances on issues important to Minnesotans. Finstad and Abrahamson did not respond as of Oct. 14.

Abortion

Abrahamson: “I believe making abortions illegal will only open up the possibility for unclean and unsanitary conditions for abortions. It will not stop abortions. We need to stop putting the church and religion ahead of the people,” he told The Worthington Daily Globe.

Ettinger: “I believe the Supreme Court made a mistake when they struck down Roe v. Wade. It had been established precedent for over 50 years, and its elimination has created chaos for women all over the country. No matter your personal views on abortion, most people don’t think our country should be turning women or their doctors into criminals. If I’m elected, I’ll work to pass the protections of Roe v. Wade into law. My opponent will not,” he told MPR News.

Finstad: “We must protect human life no matter how small. Brad is proud to defend the sanctity of life and he will fight to protect all unborn human beings,“ according to his campaign website.

Reisdorf: “I do not recommend abortion because of the heartache it can cause — it is an agonizing and soul-searching decision. However, I feel the ultimate choice should be made by the woman, her family, and her health care team,” he told MPR News.

Economy and tax policy

Abrahamson: “I believe we need a livable wage that increases at the time people need it. Basically, (we) need a cost of living increase included in people’s paycheck. We don’t need a minimum wage. How about a maximum wage? Inflation is a farce. It’s called price gouging. We need to stop this today,” he told The Worthington Daily Globe.

Ettinger: “There is only one candidate in the race with experience working in business. I worked my way up the ladder at Hormel and eventually led the company,” he told MPR News. Company leadership “learned that what was good for our workers was also good for the bottom line, which meant that the company grew while offering expanded profit-sharing for our employees. I want to bring my experience creating jobs right here at home to Washington so that we can continue to expand our economy here in southern Minnesota.”

“On taxes, I was glad to see the recent legislation to force companies like Amazon to finally start to pay taxes. It’s outrageous that some of the largest corporations in the world haven’t paid anything for years, and I was very happy to see the recent bill that will fix that. I was incredibly disappointed to see Brad Finstad vote against that common-sense change in his very first vote in Congress,” he said, referencing that Finstad voted against the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed and will impose a new minimum corporate tax.

Finstad: “Economic issues are the number one concern I am hearing throughout southern Minnesota. Hardworking Minnesotans are struggling to pay for gas, food, clothes and basic necessities,” Finstad told the Post Bulletin.

“It is important for Congress to focus on getting government spending under control, while opening up the supply chain and improving the ability of small businesses to grow and create jobs. Working to bring down inflation and stabilize prices will be a top priority.”

Reisdorf: “The concept of economic growth is outdated, if indeed it ever was a viable concept. Growth means more energy, more fossil fuel and nuclear energy use, more environmental destruction, more greenhouse gases, more pollution. The economy must downsize — less waste, more human labor, less consumption, less driving, less air travel. We must also adopt a plant-based diet,” he told MPR News.

“Tax rates should be based on those of the Eisenhower presidency where the very wealthy could pay 90 percent of their income in taxes.”

Education

Abrahamson: His platform includes enacting tuition-free education, according to his website. His campaign Facebook shared a post that said “Total student debt cancelation is the moral and just position.”

Ettinger: “We need to do more to recruit teachers to rural areas, update technology in classrooms so that students are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow and make investments in transportation so that all kids have a ride to school ... I’m for the federal government covering more of the special education costs that fall on school districts small and large across southern Minnesota ... I think education is the key to equality of opportunity, which is why my wife LeeAnn and I have sponsored four-year college scholarships for 36 Austin graduates, most of which are the first generation in their family to attend college,” he told MPR News.

At an October event in Worthington, he said does not support President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, according to The Worthington Daily Globe.

Finstad: “Brad will work to defend family values and protect parents’ rights,” according to his campaign website. “He will fight against any government attempt to take over parents’ responsibility to raise their children.” He was appointed to the House Committee on Education & Labor in September.

Reisdorf: “Public education should be provided through the Ph.D. level. An effort needs to be made to teach students the truth about historical events rather than teaching them fables,” Reisdorf said. Schools should list the following books as required reading, he added: Frederick Douglass' autobiography, “Black Elk Speaks” by John Neihardt, “The New Pearl Harbor” by David Ray Griffin, “A People's History of the United States” by Howard Zinn, and “War is a Racket” by Maj. General Smedley D. Butler, U.S. Marine Corps.

Environment and climate change

Abrahamson: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Ettinger: “Climate change is one of the most critical issues facing the next Congress. I am committed to addressing climate change to ensure a planet that is livable for my grandchildren. I am also committed to doing so in a way that brings new jobs, particularly in the green energy sector, to the southern Minnesota economy. As we explore ways to move away from fossil fuels as a nation, my district has a vital role to play in providing the energy solutions of the future,” he told MPR News.

Finstad: “We also need to address the energy crisis our country faces right now. The base of our economy is energy, and just a few years ago, America was a net energy exporter. Unfortunately, our country is now experiencing an energy crisis because the Biden Administration wrongly decided to halt the Keystone Line and dismantle energy production in our country,” he wrote in a letter to the editor.

Reisdorf: “During the course of my campaign, climate change and nuclear weapons have emerged as the most critical issues facing humanity. We must reduce our energy consumption by 50 percent as soon as possible in order to avoid a serious disaster,” he told MPR News.

“We must stop polluting the environment. Is any lake, river, or stream safe to drink from in Minnesota?  … The poisoning of the planet must stop at once.  Therefore, drastic action must be taken at the federal level and our leaders must pass legislation to curtail air, water, and soil pollution.”

Farming and rural Minnesota

Abrahamson: “We need to invest more into solar, wind and water power. We also need to stop selling Monsanto products, because those products are getting into our air and water and causing cancer across the state, and our country,” he told The Worthington Daily Globe.

Ettinger: “Family farms are the backbone of southern Minnesota. In Congress, I’ll support policies that uphold family farmers and local agricultural producers, including making sure that measures that support small-scale producers make it into the next Farm Bill,” he told MPR News.

“We also need increased attention from our leaders on rural roads, schools, and housing. We need infrastructure investment that would allow farmers and manufacturers to safely deliver their products all over the country. We should invest in strong public schools to make sure that every child, in rural areas, city centers, and everywhere else, receives a world-class education. We need policies that support new housing developments in rural areas to make sure that there’s enough to go around at affordable prices.”

Finstad: When he worked as state director for the USDA in 2017, Finstad said he helped improve access to rural health care services for over 50,000 people throughout the state. He announced nearly $110 million in investments through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program to be used to fund construction, expansion and/or improvement of health care facilities. “By investing in modern technology and infrastructure for hospitals, clinics, treatment centers, and assisted living facilities, we can ensure the continued growth and development of rural America. As a rural resident with seven children myself, I understand the importance that this access has on the continued economic growth of surrounding communities.”

Over the summer, after participating in a debate at Farm Fest, he said, “I’m a farmer and a problem solver and that hopefully was made clear, these are trying times for my friends, families and neighbors in southern Minnesota and there’s a lot of real issues that are affecting us.”

“I’m committed to working on solving some of those things," he continued. "I’m committed to doing that instead of the political sideshow that breaks out all too often.”

Reisdorf: “A switch to local diversified agriculture is essential. We need to put more people back on the land with smaller farms using less mechanized operations and employing organic methods,” he told MPR News.

Guns

Abrahamson: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Ettinger: “I am a supporter of the Second Amendment while recognizing the devastating impact that gun violence and crime can have on our community. I support common-sense gun regulation like universal background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Orders that would keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others while ensuring that people who have the training to use their guns safely and legally are able to do so,” he told MPR News.

Finstad: His campaign website said he “firmly supports Americans Second Amendment rights and will strongly defend them in Congress. He will oppose any liberal efforts to restrict your access to guns.”

Reisdorf: “We have 330 million people in the U.S. and 400 million guns. Last year, 45,000 people were killed by guns, 1,600 were children. Another 41,000 people were injured by guns, 4,200 were children. There were 700 mass shootings and 24,000 gun suicides. Between 1968 and 2017, 1.5 million Americans were killed with guns. Guns are designed to kill other human beings. They bring no joy, but only sorrow. Is it worth the agony to have them as part of American culture?” Reisdorf told MPR News. The numbers he cited are more or less correct and in line with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Gun Violence Archive.

Health care

Abrahamson: When asked what the most important issue is in the district, he told The Worthington Daily Globe: “Health care is the most important thing. Not everyone has the health care they need and deserve. And definitely not affordable. We need to go to a Medicare for All healthcare program. We can do it, and over time, actually save money. The only ones that believe we can’t are bought by the health care insurance lobbyists.”

Ettinger: “I know inflation and rising costs are hurting everyone. I am very familiar with controlling costs from my business career, and I have offered a plan to tackle the issue of rising costs, which you can find on my website, EttingerForCongress.com,” he told MPR News. “One of the worst areas for cost inflation over many years has been health care costs, which is why I was gratified to see the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. It finally allows Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug costs, caps insulin and total out-of-pocket costs for seniors, and kept in place Affordable Care Act subsidies that have been essential for thousands in our district to afford health care,” he told MPR News.

Finstad: MPR News could not find public comment from Finstad on the matter.

Reisdorf: “We need to employ national universal health care: Everyone receives the care they need when they need it. All citizens are covered regardless of employment status. Businesses are freed from the burden of administering health care. Patients choose their doctor. Doctors and patients, not insurance companies, determine the best treatment. Everyone contributes based on ability to pay. Administrative costs are reduced from 31 percent to 3 percent of the total cost,” he told MPR News.

Immigration

Abrahamson: “I believe there should be a clearer path to citizenship,” he told The Worthington Daily Globe.

Ettinger: “There hasn’t been a meaningful change in the law since the 1980s because of Congress’ inability to compromise. As a result, our immigration system isn't working like it should be, and Congress can't seem to get anything done to make things better. We need more people with real-life experience to change that, not more career politicians. We should pass a law to make DACA permanent, so that children that were brought here and are contributing to our country aren't thrown out. Then, we need to work on comprehensive immigration reform, which should include enhanced border security,” Ettinger told MPR News.

Finstad: “We must have secure borders. The Biden administration has failed to secure the border and that must change. Policies need to deter illegal immigration and smuggling of all kinds. Our immigration system should be geared to benefiting the United States first [and] should be based on our workforce needs. We should have a system that is efficient in processing applications,” he told The Worthington Daily Globe.

Reisdorf: “Climate change and wars will create more refugees.  The cooperation of all UN countries is necessary to reduce these causes. Rigorous reductions in weapons production while empowering the UN to mediate conflicts must be emphasized,” he told MPR News.

The 2020 election

Abrahamson: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Ettinger: “We need representatives that actually represent their whole district. The term ‘representative’ is supposed to mean that members of Congress actually try to reach all people across the district, not only the ones who voted for them,” Ettinger told MPR News.

“I was moved to run for office in part by the events of January 6th, when a mob of people tried to overturn the election in Washington D.C., and our own local Congressman would not vote to certify the election. I believe all of us play a role in advancing a pro-Democracy agenda. We need to make voting rights and accessibility a core focus, and we all need to do more to defeat people like our former Congressman who wouldn’t even vote to certify the results of the election. I believe the right to vote is sacred, and I will always stand up for it. We must make sure that every eligible voter is able to practice that right, and oppose all efforts to overturn elections or take away people’s ability to vote.”

Finstad: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Reisdorf: “The 2020 presidential election, like the previous six elections, was not fair and decidedly undemocratic, but not for the reasons put forth by Mr. Trump. Howie Hawkins, Green Party, and Jo Jorgenson, Libertarian Party, each had enough potential electoral votes to win the election, but were excluded from the "debates," thus undermining democracy and robbing the American voters of real choices. The League of Women Voters should resume charge of the debates and include all candidates who have the potential electoral votes to win,” Reisdorf told MPR News.

Map of Minnesota US house district 1
Minnesota US House District 1
Elisabeth Gawthrop | APM Research Lab

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  • Election 2022: View more voter guides and resources.

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