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Ettinger affirms support for abortion rights in Rushford visit

The 1st Congressional District candidate called the topic one where he won't budge.

Jeff Ettinger July 11, 2022 01.JPG
Jeff Ettinger, DFL candidate for the 1st Congressional District in a special election Aug. 9 and the November general election, speaks to a crowd at a DFL town hall forum at the Rushford-Peterson High School in Rushford on July 11, 2022.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin
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RUSHFORD, Minn. — First Congressional District candidate Jeff Ettinger affirmed his support for abortion rights to applause in a DFL-sponsored forum Monday night.

The statement was a brief one, but garnered strong applause from a crowd of more than 50 people at Rushford-Peterson High School.

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“We should not be making criminals of women when it comes to their decisions on health care,” Ettinger said.

Ettinger is running to fill the seat vacated when Rep. Jim Hagedorn died in February. There are essentially two elections, one on Aug. 9 to to finish the last four months remaining in the current term, and the Nov. 8 general election to serve the next term in Congress from 2023 to 2025. Ettinger won a May 24 special election primary to represent the DFL in the race.

The town hall forum, held by the Fillmore County DFL, focused on investment in rural Minnesota. Most of the forum stayed on the topic. However, Ettinger alluded to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to reverse federally protected rights to abortion and the ongoing investigation into the attack on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021. Ettinger has cited the attack on the capitol and late Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s refusal to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election as reasons for his candidacy for the seat.

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Jeff Ettinger July 11, 2022 03.JPG
A crowd listens as Jeff Ettinger, DFL candidate for the 1st Congressional District in a special election Aug. 9 and the November general election, speaks at a DFL town hall forum at the Rushford-Peterson High School in Rushford July 11, 2022.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin

“I’m running in part for democracy,” he said. “Whoever wins this seat in November will be sitting there in 2025 certifying the (2024) election.”

As former CEO of Hormel Foods, Ettinger was head of a major player in the U.S. agriculture industry. Monday night, he stressed the importance of investing in small and medium farms in rural Minnesota.

“The bigger entities have plenty of chance to talk,” Ettinger said.

Investing in incentives to encourage regenerative agriculture and no-till planting would help make the practices more common and help combat climate change by sequestering carbon, he added.

Ettinger pointed to Minnesota Senate District 26 candidate Dan Wilson, who attended and briefly spoke at the forum as an example of a farmer applying good practices.

Wilson said he had to fight state regulations in order to implement many of them.

Tim Ahrens, of Altura, asked what could be done to help preserve smaller farms from being absorbed by larger operations.

“We need more Dans,” Ettinger said, referring to Wilson.

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Wilson said more public compensation for practices that contribute to public good would help encourage smaller operators to get into farming or implement sustainable practices such as no-till farming and rotational grazing on degraded lands.

Dan Wilson July 11, 2021 01.JPG
Dan Wilson, DFL candidate for Minnesota Senate seat 26, speaks with an attendee at a DFL town hall forum at the Rushford-Peterson High School in Rushford July 11, 2022.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin

“That’s how you get more of something,” Ettinger added. “You incentivize it.”

Ahrens said his parents own land near Daley Farms which has requested a variance from Winona County to add up to an additional 3,000 cows to their operation which is limited by statute to 1,500 . Their proposed manure management plan that would spread the waste from those cows over nearly 4,200 acres. Ahrens said his parents’ well water quality has steadily declined.

“The appetite for growth by these big operations puts a strain on small to mid-size operations,” Ahrens said.

His reaction to Ettinger’s answer:

“I’d have to trust him to keep his promise to the small farmer,” Ahrens said.

Ettinger framed himself as a pragmatic candidate and successor to Tim Walz, who once held the seat.

“He was always respectful, his door was always open, his decisions were always science- and fact-based,” Ettinger said. “That’s not what we had when Hagedorn was there.”

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Ettinger said Congress needs more people willing to compromise and work together,

“If you’re respectful and you honestly and earnestly meet people in the middle, that’s how you get things done,” he said.

Ettinger was asked how much he would cooperate and what issues were hard lines for him. He indicated that finding cooperative partners might be easier said than done.

“First of all you have to ask, is there anyone to dance with,” he said.

Ettinger named two issues where he doesn’t see middle ground from his current position. First, he pointed to voting rights. The right to participate in elections has expanded from being afforded only to white male property owners. The other issue was abortion.

The Fillmore County DFL event was co-sponsored by the state party and the Winona County and Houston County DFL chapters to speak about investment in rural Minnesota.

Jeff Ettinger July 11, 2022 02.JPG
Jeff Ettinger, DFL candidate for the 1st Congressional District in a special election Aug. 9 and the November general election, speaks to a crowd at a DFL town hall forum at the Rushford-Peterson High School in Rushford July 11, 2022.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin

John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or jmolseed@postbulletin.com.
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