A special Candidate Forum and Debate was held on Tuesday evening at the Community Center in Montevideo.

A special Candidate Forum and Debate was held on Tuesday evening at the Community Center in Montevideo. A number of candidates for various local and state races were in attendance, as were a large number of interested citizens.

The forum was moderated by Scott Van Binsbergen, who ex­plain­ed the rules of the event. Each candidate was allowed an opening statement, then were asked questions, then were able to give a closing statement.

Invitations to participate in the event were sent out to all candidates on the General Election Ballot, and a total of 18 were in attendance at the Community Center.

The first candidate to take the podium was Chris Dock, an independent who is running for State Auditor. He believes that the person who is State Auditor should not be a politician. He said: “A state auditor should work for the people, not for the government, and not for any political party. My goal is to find as much waste and inefficiencies as I can, and maximize the return on your investments through your taxpayer dollars.”

Next up was Michelle MacDonald, who is running for Associate Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. She feels her experience would be a benefit for Minnesotans. She said: “I’ve stood up to judges on behalf of individuals and families, so they could have the basic recognition of their civil and constitutional rights.”

Governor candidate Chris Wright of the Grass Roots Party spoke next. He believes the election system needs to be changed to allow all candidates to have a voice. He said: “I propose that one way we can end the oligarchy is to allow all candidates free time and access to the media, and that our elections would last no longer than eight weeks.”

Minnesota Secretary of State Independence Party candidate William Denney  expressed concern for election integrity. “If we ever get to that place where the citizens don’t trust the election results, then the bedrock of society will slide out from beneath us, he said.

Two U.S. Senate candidates were at the forum. Minnesota Green Party candidate Paula Overby and Legal Marijuana Now candidate Dennis Schuller spoke to the audience.

Overby stated that she is a strong advocate for electoral process reform. She said: “I believe that democracy depends on thoughtful governance and the collaboration of ideas. I am a strong advocate of the third party movement, which is a real path to real reform.”

Schuller is a proponent of legalizing marijuana. He said: “I’m a businessman,and have been for 25 years. I am tired of seeing time and money being focused on the wasteful war on plants, also known as the War on Drugs. This is why I am running for a seat on the U.S. Senate.”

Andrew Stenson and Joe Helgeson are both seeking re-election to the Montevideo School Board. Both Stenson and Helgeson are proud of the district’s technology and safety upgrades, and look forward to continuing to make the Montevideo school system the best in the area.

A question was raised about the possibility of a future school referendum which would raise local property taxes. Helgeson stated: “We are looking at our facilities, and looking at maybe building a community center that both the public and district could use. Ultimately, that would mean a referendum that would increase taxes. However, I do think we need to plan for the future of our students to try to give them the best education they deserve.”

Stenson was asked about the duty the district has to its employees. He said: “Primarily, we have to offer a safe workplace. We are continually working with law enforcement professionals to evaluate procedures and access to the buildings. we want to treat our employees fairly. Both Joe and I are on the negotiation committee, and have built a strong partnership with our labor union partners over the years. It’s important to have happy employees.”

Former Montevideo Mayor Jim Curtiss spoke to the audience about his candidacy for mayor. Curtiss is running unopposed as current Mayor Debra Lee Fader is moving out of town and has withdrawn her candidacy.

Curtiss said: “As you know, the mayor doesn’t have a vote. The mayor’s job is to be an ambassador for the City of Montevideo and I think that worked well when I was mayor before.”

Three candidates for city council were at the forum. Marvin Garbe, Daniel Sanborn, and Steve Sulflow all spoke to the audience.

All three were asked if the supported more local taxes. Garbe answered first: “I am never in support of increasing local taxes, but there are things that need to be done. Every year we are doing road work at $1 million a year, and after 30 years we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Sanborn said: “I have to agree with Marvin; no one wants new taxes. We are doing a lot of road work, and so far I haven’t seen much of an increase in my taxes. We are getting the things we need.”

Sulflow said; “Nobody wants new taxes, but we’ve got to keep the roads going and keep up with the times.”

In what turned out to be one of the more contentious moments of the forum, county commissioner candidates Todd Hay and Dave Lieser faced off.

Hay expressed concerns about the way the current board operates. “Not all commissioners are trained to do management. They come from various backgrounds, various jobs. They don’t have the experience they need to keep one solid path going forward... Our group of commissioners think they need to micro-manage, and that’s the problem.”

Hay advocates for a county manager to be hired who is overseen by the board of commissioners.

Lieser, for his part, believes the commissioners are operating efficiently. He said: “My fellow commissioners and I put in a lot of extra time to save the county the costs of hiring a county manager, which would have a cost in the neighborhood of $125,000 to $150,000. I certainly do work toward efficiency and I work to keep spending under control, while investing in essential services.”

Lieser mentioned that Chippewa County’s budget is on average 15 percent lower than surrounding counties.

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Two candidates are running for Chippewa County Attorney and both were present at the forum.

Matt Haugen addressed the audience first. He said: “I am the right candidate to be your next Chippewa County Attorney. In today’s political environment, there is too much negativity. I have the ability and desire to bring everyone together to try to address the problems that we have here in Chippewa County, and to help us prosper.”

Kluver feels his experience as both a prosecuting and defense attorney makes him uniquely qualified for the county attorney job. He said “When I left Nelson & Torvick and opened my own office seven years ago, I stopped prosecuting and went over to the other side and started defending. I don’t think a person can really get a full view of what’s going on in the criminal realm until you see it from both sides.”

Both Chippewa County Sheriff candidates were at the forum. Deputy Derek Olson and Deputy Shawn Joyce squared off. Both candidate’s views align, and both would be honored to serve the citizens of Chippewa County as Sheriff.

Both candidates have a lot of respect for each other, and both are eminently qualified for the position of Sheriff. At one point, Joyce and Olson hugged each other, and did so again at the end of their time.

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