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State House candidates Phillips, Hicks face off in debate

The candidates sparred over elections, $9 billion surplus and abortion.

Wendy Phillips and Kim Hicks
Wendy Phillips and Kim Hicks.
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ROCHESTER — Republican Wendy Phillips and Democrat Kim Hicks faced off in a debate Tuesday, disagreeing on issues related to reproductive freedom and abortion, how to dispose of a $9 billion surplus, how elections should be conducted and controlling four-decade-high inflation.

The two are running to represent Minnesota House District 25A, a new district carved out during the once-a-decade redistricting process. The district seat is considered open since neither Phillips nor Hicks is currently a member of the Minnesota House.

The forum was held Tuesday night at the Rochester Public Library and organized by the Rochester chapter of the Minnesota League of Women Voters.

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Phillips, an Oronoco planning and zoning board member, is making her first bid for the Minnesota Legislature. Hicks, a disability advocate, ran in 2020 and lost to state GOP Rep. Duane Quam.

Question: What measures, if any, would you support to reinforce or ensure voter confidence in elections?

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Hicks: I believe that Minnesota’s elections are safe and secure. We have had recounts in the state, and they have proven over and over again that we are having safe and secure elections. I think we can maintain our safe and secure elections by maintaining access to voting for all voters. I believe that the 2020 election was free and fair. I support same day registration, absentee and early voting. Minnesota’s voter turnout remains high. And I think we can keep it by remaining in these situations and making sure we stay safe and secure.

Phillips: I believe that one of the things that would bolster the confidence of voters is that if we had voter ID at the polls. I was very surprised to walk into my polling place on primary day (Phillips lived in California for a while). I had my ID out, and they told me that I didn’t need that. I asked them: What happens if somebody voted in my place and I came in later to vote? And they said that they would be able to deal with that after the fact. That was very concerning to me. With same day registration, it would be great to have provisional ballots. And declare Election Day a holiday so that all people can go out and vote.

Question: When the U.S. Supreme Court ended a woman’s Constitutional right to an abortion, it sent the issue back to the states. For the time being, Minnesota’s courts have held that a woman does have the right to an abortion. Where do you stand on abortion and reproductive freedom?

Phillips: The short answer is that I am pro-life. The long answer is that due to the 1995 decision in Minnesota Supreme Court, the court ruled that abortion is legal in the state. It would require the Minnesota Supreme Court overturning that decision. But presently, the DFL is spending thousands of dollars attacking me on this issue to divert voters attention away from the DFL epic failure of leadership. We’ve got rising gas prices, food and energy costs. We’ve got rising crime rates. We had a portion of Minneapolis burned to the ground. And this is a shameless attempt on the part of DFL to gain votes in the upcoming election. This issue of abortion is not on the ballot.

Hicks: I would counter that the issue of abortion is on the ballot this election. Just this weekend, a group called MOMS has challenged the most recent court case in Minnesota around abortion restrictions. So it is on the ballot. And what I will say about abortion is that my views have dramatically changed. I suffered a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. And as I sat in those conversations, trying to make the best decision for myself and my family, the emotional and physical toll that that was taking on me was astronomical. I would not have wanted a politician in that room with our family. And I don’t want a politician in that room with anyone else’s family.

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Question: The last legislative session ended without an agreement on how to spend Minnesota’s more than $9 surplus. If elected, what priorities do you have for those funds?

Hicks: To fight divided government requires compromise. And when we compromise, we don’t get everything we want. I believe that we should take the surplus and break it into three buckets. I think we need to put some money away for a rainy day. The second bucket should be used to fund the things we have traditionally underfunded. We haven't increased funding or rates for children’s mental health in this state since 2008. We haven’t funded increased rates for autism services since 2013. And we’ve never fully funded special education. We need to take that money and fund the things we’ve been putting on the back burner. And then we need to take what’s left, and we need to give it back to hardworking Minnesotans and small businesses. Compromise is necessary.

Phillips: I believe that the best thing to do would be to give the surplus back to the taxpayers that overpaid. At this point, Minnesota families are hurting in a deep way. And they are finding that they’re having to choose between paying their power bills and eating three meals a day. That is just so wrong. I believe that needs to be given back. And as people have money in their hands, and are able to spend that money in local small businesses, we’ll start to see some stimulation of our economy again.

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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