Jim Hagedorn began his interview with us extolling his work ethic as a congressman, and proceeded to make clear that he's done his homework. His command of the issues that have passed before him in two years in Congress is impressive. Whether speaking about high-risk insurance pools for Minnesotans with pre-existing medical conditions, trade deals and price trends affecting Minnesota farmers, or the potential effects of relaxing immunity for the state's law enforcement officers, Hagedorn showed he understands facts, issues and details exceedingly well. A short 30-minute interview with him touched on perhaps 100 different issues.
But where Hagedorn's approach is intellectual, Dan Feehan — whose education and life experience makes him no slouch either —demonstrated a curiosity and interest in people. His empathetic stories from Minnesota households included the family who lost their generations-old farm; another whose members were exposed to COVID-19 by a home health care worker; and another about that same worker who came to work sick because she had no other option to provide for her own family. Feehan also grew up in proximity to the Native American community at Treasure Island, and his observations from that time fuel his compassion for tribal issues.
"People First," Feehan said, is the motto of his campaign, and that is demonstrated not only in the personal connections he's made, but in the simple and thoughtful way he presented his views. His interview with us was not a tommy gun of facts; it was a distillation of complex matters to the most salient points. This may serve him well among his peers in Congress. We have found, in our own lives, that a recitation of a dozen statistics may not convince, but that one well-placed story or detail often will.
Above all, Feehan's willingness to listen to his constituents will make him a better representative for District 1. Hagedorn's presentation to us was laced with frequent complaints and criticisms of "the Democrats" and "liberals." Feehan underlined his own willingness to work across the aisle in Congress — to be "partner-oriented" — and described his obligation to represent all of his constituents, even ones who disagree with him. Is his plan to expand access to health insurance by expanding Medicare the right plan for southern Minnesota's health care economy? Maybe and maybe not, but Feehan said he will be committed to making sure Mayo Clinic is heard on the issue.
On public safety, we found the candidates holding diametrically different views — but not in exactly the way you might assume. Hagedorn supports police and decries the arson and looting that went on in Minneapolis, as many of us do. But he went further, saying the failures to moderate the racial protests in Minneapolis this summer were "in many ways responsible . . . for a lot of the problems we see across the country." We do not see that as a reasonable placement of blame.
Feehan, like Hagedorn, opposes abolishment and defunding of police departments, but said it's a "false choice" to make it a one-or-the-other proposition between so-called "law and order" and promoting equal treatment under the law. Why can't we have both? And some law enforcement agencies, including departments in Rochester and Olmsted County, are already pressing for both, sending social workers on certain calls with law officers, expanding training and taking other steps to promote compassion and equity.
The two were perhaps most split on the subject of climate change. Feehan said that climate change is science and should be addressed as fact, while Hagedorn said that blaming recent natural disasters on climate change is "ridiculous."
Hagedorn said extreme heat and poor forestry management by the State of California are to blame for recent wildfires. "If you are not going to go out there and clean up the forest, you can have climate change or no climate change, you're going to end up with massive fires.
"If you want to do something for the world, sell natural gas to China and make them close their coal-powered plants," he said.
Hagedorn also suggested that nuclear microreactors might be a way for the country to reach energy independence.
On the cost of higher education, Feehan cited his own experience, saying he is still paying off student loans. He's in favor of loan forgiveness for public service, while Hagedorn proposed a flexible spending type program that would allow people to pay student loans with pre-tax income.
Hagedorn was elected in 2018 by a thin margin, and his first term has been marred by ethics questions. One concerned his use of the taxpayer-funded mail program and payments made to people tied to his campaign. Another is a report that his campaign was given rent-free office space by a supporter.
Overall, Feehan seems the better fit for District 1. He didn't play the blame game and demonstrated a common sense, let's-work-this-out-together attitude that is largely missing in today's politics.
This endorsement represents the opinion of Forum Communications Co. management.