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Congressional candidates talks issues

When asked what their top priority would be if elected, both candidates for Wisconsin 7th Congressional District found it difficult to narrow their to-do lists.

Sean Duffy
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When asked what their top priority would be if elected, both candidates for Wisconsin 7th Congressional District found it difficult to narrow their to-do lists.

Democratic challenger Mary Hoeft, a Rice Lake educator, rattled off a number of high-priority items on her agenda during a recent phone interview.

"Protecting Social Security, you bet," she said. "Living wage, absolutely." She'd like to make Affordable Care Act health care more affordable by introducing a single-payer system, too.

When asked what her No. 1 priority would be, Hoeft chose an issue that she has heard repeatedly on the campaign trail.

"Dairy farmers need the most immediate help," Hoeft said. "They need emergency relief."


Throughout the dairy state, milk that costs $16.50 per 100 pounds to produce is being sold for $14.50. That $2 loss per unit is hitting dairy farmers hard, Hoeft said, and the 7th Congressional District has more dairy farmers than any other district.

She plans to follow that up with legislation focused on raising the minimum wage, keeping jobs from being outsourced overseas, health care, expanding public education to K-14 and more.

"The list is everything the people in the congressional district have asked me for," Hoeft said.

In an email response, Republican incumbent Sean Duffy of Wausau said his top priority is to fight to preserve freedom and the opportunity to prosper. He said poverty rates and the income gap have increased over the eight years and constitutionally-protected freedoms have been challenged.

"There's a better way," Duffy said. "I'm committed to fighting for policies that expand opportunity and encourage upward mobility. That's the American Dream I believe in."

He said that, as chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight, he has worked hard to shine a spotlight on abuses of power and hold rogue bureaucrats accountable.

The candidates were asked how they would increase voter confidence in elected officials.

Healing the current partisan divide is necessary, Duffy said, and President Barack Obama has displayed a "my way or the highway approach" over the past eight years.


"We can't get things done with this kind of attitude," Duffy said. "That's why I've been vocal in my desire to reach out on common ground with people on the other side of the aisle."

He pointed to his record of fighting for important local issues, such as funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, disaster relief funding for northern Wisconsin and helping veterans cut through red tape with the Veterans Administration.

Hoeft plans to improve voter confidence through the legislation she proposes.

"Not necessarily the legislation that successfully passes, but what legislation I introduce," Hoeft said.

Both candidates were asked to name a positive trait about their opponent.

"Six years ago he decided he would run for office," Hoeft said of Duffy, and she gave him credit for taking on that serious commitment and responsibility.

"Mary's diligence in the fight for the truth about her son's death is truly admirable," Duffy said of the Rice Lake woman.

Hoeft's son, Ryan, a police officer, died on duty while serving the citizens of St. Louis Park, Minn.


What is the biggest strength each candidate would bring to the job?

"When Dave Obey endorsed me, he called me a 'meat and potatoes' Democrat," Hoeft said, but he wasn't talking about her table manners. "He knows I'm the type of woman who will roll up her sleeves and get to work doing things for the people of the 7th Congressional District." She will be, Hoeft said, "relentless" in support of constituents.

Duffy said he brings to the office deep northern Wisconsin roots and, as a father of eight, a real stake in the safety and economy of the region.

"As your representative, I wake up every day determined to take our commonsense, Wisconsin values to a place that is in desperate need of it - Washington, D.C.," he said.


To encourage job growth, Hoeft said she would support legislation to make it easier for small businesses to get start-up loans. She's also heard requests from members of the Bad River tribe for more businesses on tribal land and would seek to provide mentors to encourage small businesses on reservations.

Duffy said he supports policies that will grow the economy by removing red tape and regulations like those imposed by Washington bureaucrats and encouraging business to return and grow in America. When community banks aren't hampered by regulations such as those imposed by Dodd-Frank, he said, they can lend money to small businesses seeking to expand and families who need credit.


In response to growing concerns over terrorism, Hoeft said she would support putting funding toward preventative measures like international intelligence and Homeland Security, to identify acts of terror before they take place. She also believes that if a person's name is on the terrorist watch list, they should not be able to purchase a gun. That's just "common sense," Hoeft said.

The first step in combatting terrorism, Duffy said, is to name the problem: radical Islamic terrorism, both ISIS and homegrown terrorists who are a direct threat to our way of life. He supports direct actions - improving intelligence on the ground and not letting political correctness impede law enforcement from doing investigations and taking precautions to prevent future attacks.

Health care

"Washington-based mandates like Obamacare have made health care more expensive and harder to access for millions of Americans," Duffy said. "In order to make health care more accessible and more affordable for people of all ages, I'm fighting for legislation that would put medical decisions where they belong - between patents and their doctors - and fighting for a system that requires doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to compete with each other so consumers get the best price and service."

On the campaign trail, Hoeft has heard from people thankful that they can get health care with pre-existing conditions and just as many people who can't afford insurance through the current Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) marketplace.

"We need to make health care more affordable and that's through the single-payer system," Hoeft said.

Although she agrees that the Affordable Healthcare Act needs to be adjusted, the Rice Lake woman doesn't feel it should be scrapped completely. That would be like building a beautiful home, she said, but tearing it down because the heating system doesn't work. Right now, that act insures 20 million people.


Education is an issue Hoeft is passionate about. She supports a K-14 program which would offer students an additional two years of technical school or community college on top of a high school degree.

"It gives them what they need in order to get a decent job," Hoeft said.

It also helps businesses, which are leaving positions unfilled because they can't find applicants with the needed skills. Ensuring that job seekers in the United States have the appropriate skills could keep manufacturing jobs from being shipped overseas.

With eight children, the cost of college education is a concern to Duffy.

"We need to make financial aid easier to access to those who need it," he said. The congressman said financial transparency in higher education would substantially lower the cost.

"If colleges had to be upfront with how they were spending money - or how much money they have sitting in endowments - students and parents would be demanding that they reprioritize their budgets to make tuition more affordable," Duffy said. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

More information

For more information on Hoeft, as well as her position papers on many issues, visit www.maryhoeftforcongress.com/ or follow the Mary Hoeft for Congress Facebook page.

For information on Duffy, visit duffy.house.gov, duffyforwisconsin.com or follow him on Facebook at Sean Duffy or Congressman Sean Duffy.

Mary Hoeft
Mary Hoeft

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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