Address: Balsam Lake
Family: "I was born in St. Paul. My mom and dad were both Republicans and when I was about 5, my dad ran for Congress as a Republican, when he was about my age in fact."
He ran against Bruce Vento during the DFLer's first bid for office. Margaret is the only child of both her parents, but has many half-siblings.
Education: After graduating from St. Paul Central in the Twin Cities, she joined the Navy. During her 24-year career in the military, she was trained as a journeyman electrician, retrained for heavy equipment operation, and she learned a specialty within that in blasting and quarry operations, and explosives. She then retrained at the Defense Information School where all branches of the military are trained for media and journalism, and she went through videographer school.
In 2001, she attended the University of Wisconsin-Superior, where she earned a bachelor's degree in history with a minor in business administration, graduating magna cum laude. From 2007-2010, she attend the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she earned her juris doctorate.
Government, military or civic experience:
Engebretson retired after 24 years of military service after in the military with three years in the Navy, 10 years in the Naval Reserve and 11 years in the Minnesota Air National Guard 148th Fighter Wing. She's worked in corrections for St. Louis County and as a U.S. postal clerk. She served briefly on the board of her church and is on the board of Community Referral Agency, which provides support to victims of domestic abuse in Polk, Burnett and Barron counties. In 2016, she joined the Polk County Democrats and became secretary and served as an organizing; she is also a member of the American Legion in Balsam Lake.
Why did you decide to run for Congress?
"Well, several reasons, but I think ... after the 2016 election, I was at the time not working because I was recovering from major shoulder surgery. I watched how things unfolded. I was very concerned about the direction that candidate Trump and the Republicans that gained the majority in both houses of Congress, and the direction they wanted to take our country. In addition, the attack on our democracy, our election system by the Russian government and the lack of or the tepid response to that attack really alarmed me.
Because I was recovering from surgery I had time to really dig in and think about what is ailing our country. In essence, our entire democratic system is under threat, directly or indirectly. We've got a wealth and income inequality gap that is as bad as it's been since the Gilded Age. We have so much special interest, corporate and dark money flowing into our political system that it is corrupting it. We have voter suppression and gerrymandering distorting the outcomes of elections and subverting the wishes of the people of the United States.
So, combining all of these factors, I took a good look at my representative in Congress, Sean Duffy, and he is not adequately representing the 7th Congressional District. So I set on a path to unseat him."
What skills do you bring to the table?
"I have a very diverse background. I've experienced a lot of things in my life. I've had different careers. I've been in different work settings, social settings, education settings, and I have a lot of different skills that I bring to the table. I have a good educational foundation from the University of Wisconsin System in history and law, which I think is really appropriate for this time in our history, or helpful rather.
I am also an advocate. Our representatives need to be advocates because they're the ones who go to Washington and do their jobs while people in the district are living their lives ... We need them to fight for the resources we need in the district and we need them to stand up for us and do everything in their power to fight for what we need and want here back home."
Advocating for herself and others is an engine that drives her, she said.
What leadership experience do you have?
"I suppose the most recent example of this — and I kind of think about it like this — I am a step-up-to-the-plate kind of person. Throughout my life, if there is a need for leadership, I'm usually the first one that will step up into the void and take charge. My campaign is a perfect example of that ... I went from sitting there after the election, not politically connected, not wealthy, not a member of a party and started doing my research and drew people in to work with me and make the journey to try to unseat Sean Duffy.
That has taken a tremendous amount of leadership to go from nothing to knocking on the door of the Democratic primary right now."
What do you see as the role and responsibility of a congressman?
"The oath of office that members of Congress take when they're sworn in — it has two parts.
One is to support and defend the constitution, and the other part is to faithfully execute the duties of office. The first part encompasses a lot of things and one of those things is in dire need right now. That is to serve as a check and balance on the other branches of government and that is to provide accountability to the other branches so that we all stay in sync and accomplish what we need to do for the American people.
The second part of that is being a representative, being present, coming home, listening to the people, what they need and what they want, and going back to Washington and fighting for what's best for the people of the district."
Russian interference in U.S. elections continues to be a threat to our democracy. What measures would you support to thwart those efforts?
"First, I would enact legislation to protect the Mueller probe, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, from any presidential interference or dispersion. The second thing we need to do is create a 9/11-style commission to develop a coordinated national strategy to defend our democracy."
She said the commission would get experts from the intelligence community, private tech industry, social media representatives because that played a role in interference in 2016, people familiar with electoral systems to coordinate a unified American response. "When one of us is under attack, all of us are."
She said party doesn't matter because it was American institutions that are attacked and the response should be the same whether it is Democrats or Republicans that are being hacked.
"This is a national security issue and we need to treat it seriously and do do everything in our power to get our resources and our knowledge all going in the same direction to defend ourselves."
"We really need to secure our voting systems by providing resources to assist with election security."
She said she expects the Russians will be back to intercede on the elections again and the nation needs to shore up systems to prevent the attack.
Mueller's ongoing probe of Russian interference in U.S. elections has been under attack by the president. What measures would you support to ensure Mueller and his team can finish their work to determine what happened and who was involved?
"Essentially, we need to pass legislation that has been written by Democrats in both houses." With members of Congress introducing articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, she said it is essential to ensure the special counsel's investigation is allowed to proceed. "We need oversight but we need to allow them to do their jobs correctly."
Wisconsin is facing economic challenges — from farms to manufacturing facilities — as a result of the president's decision to implement tariffs. Do you have or are there solutions that you would support our industries weather the issue? Please explain.
"Congress already has the authority to repeal the Trump tariffs and end the Trump trade war, and it should do that immediately. Congress has ceded its authority over time to the executive branch, and it needs to take that back and take control of it. What is going on here is exceedingly dangerous, and it's getting worse by the day."
Engebretson said she spoke to a small manufacturer that is already feeling the pinch of the president's actions because he lost a contracts and customers in China for the small, plastic parts he makes, and he's in danger of losing everything in the years leading up to his retirement.
In addition, she said the last thing the U.S. needs to do is ramp up rhetoric on the subject, something she said Sean Duffy did when he likened American allies to "economic terrorists" for their response to the Trump tariffs. "That is unhelpful. Trade is not a zero-sum game."
Health care is an issue that affects every American's life at some point. What do you see as the best options for ensuring access to health care and how would you work in a bipartisan manner to achieve that?
Engebretson acknowledges that she is less familiar with private insurance than her primary opponent, but said she has been studying up on the issue.
"I have talked to a ton of people who work in the field, who have experienced first-hand the pain of not having an adequate health care system in this country. I have come to the conclusion that we should have an single-payer program that covers all from the day they are born until the day they die so they never have to again losing their health insurance." If elected in November, Engebretson said she would sign onto the bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and she would be willing to work with any member of the Republican Party who wants to fix the health care crisis in the U.S. "It will take time to fully implement a Medicare-for-all system so we need to set that goal now and work toward achieving that as quickly as possible because people's lives and livelihoods depend on it."
Is there anything you would like to add?
"I think that most people understand that this is no ordinary election year. If you want a congresswoman who understands that we need some fundamental changes in this country, and will provide the leadership to get us there, then I am your candidate. I will fight every single day to try to make the lives of the people of the 7th District better and safer, and our futures brighter for all of us. It's not a time to be cautious and trim our sails. Now is the time to step forward and fight for what we really, really need."