Pine Knot News - A hometown newspaper with a local office, local owners & lots of local news

By Jana Peterson
Pine Knot News 

Minnesota House candidates offer different paths


November 2, 2018

One thing is certain, voters have a clear choice between the two candidates for Minnesota House of Representatives District 11A: incumbent Mike Sundin, DFL, and Republican challenger Jeff Dotseth.

In his introductory statement during the Candidate Forum in Cloquet Oct. 22, Dotseth told how he and his wife live on the family farm they purchased from his grandparents. He owns a commercial- and residential real estate business headquartered in Zimmerman, Minn. with an office in Moose Lake. He was a town board supervisor for Baldwin Township in Sherburne County. He and his wife have three children and two grandchildren.

Sundin has lived in Carlton County for 41 years and raised three children here with his wife. Raised by “community activists,” Sundin said enjoys being a public servant. He has been a longtime union activist because of his involvement in the building trades, and served two terms on the Cloquet School Board. He is running for his fourth term as state representative.

Both candidates claim strong negotiating skills: Sundin from his years resolving union grievances and negotiating contracts; Dotseth from his work in real estate, working with people who are likely making one of the largest purchase of their lives.

On raising the minimum age for tobacco use to 21, Sundin said he would be more likely to support increasing tobacco taxes, to bring the price “out of reach for youth.”

Dotseth said he might consider raising the age on vaporizers (or vapes), such as the popular Juul brand, that vaporize substances such as tobacco or marijuana for inhalation, but said he was “not in favor of increasing any taxes.”

“Would you consider raising the gas tax for infrastructure needs?” asked moderator Pete Radosevich.

Dotseth said no, instead he would look at “redirecting” spending. He noted that some of his neighbors drive long distances to work in places like the Twin Cities, and an increase in the gas tax would affect them “in a major way.” He did not say where he would find money to redirect to infrastructure needs.

Sundin said yes, he would support a gas tax, citing the improved condition of Carlton County roads since the County Board passed a half-cent sales tax to help pay for improvements.

“We’ve inherited an infrastructure second to none in the U.S.,” Sundin said. “But out of the 50 states, we are No. 5 in miles of state-maintained roads. We’re overdue in maintaining those roads.”

On health care, the two were miles apart.

Dotseth advocated for better options, which he said included more choices and an open market.

“I’m not in favor of government-run healthcare,” he said, pointing out that Sundin helped co-author the bill that created MNsure, Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace for individual insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Dotseth said he would, however, support legislation that mandated insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sundin said he favors a single-payer system, along the lines of Medicare for all, calling it the most efficient healthcare program in the country. He also praised the state’s MinnesotaCare program.

“I say every citizen in the state of Minnesota is entitled [to healthcare],” Sundin said, pointing to the money invested by the state in medical research. He wants the state to look at such a system, but couldn’t suggest a timeline specifically.

Dotseth said the state has to look at the costs. He would like to see more private companies in market-based health care, although he did say that the country needs to get control of prescription drug costs, telling how he talked to a young man whose diabetes prescription costs him $1,000 a month in the U.S. whereas it would cost only $50 in Mexico or Canada.

“Private has failed us already,” Sundin said. “If you take the profits and the ads out of Big Pharma, you reduce costs by 30 percent. For-profit healthcare is about return to investors, not patient outcome.”

Dotseth appeared to agree.

“Prescription companies are out of control, abusing people,” he said. “We need to get in there and oversee.”

Sundin advocated for collective action.

“From time to time acting collectively makes more sense than throwing it to the profit mongers,” he said, noting that Minnesota has applied a collective approach to public education and transportation, for example.

Miss the forum?

Don’t worry. Mediacom subscribers can watch it on CAT-7 TV (channel 7) and others can find it on the 7 CAT-7 YouTube channel. The forum included candidates for Cloquet Mayor, Cloquet City Council Wards 1, 2, 3 and At-Large, Cloquet School Board, Carlton County Attorney and Minnesota House of Representatives 11A. CAT-7 is replaying the forum several times a day.


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