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For U.S. Senate: Our choice is Tina Smith

A year ago, Al Franken was busy serving as one of Minnesota’s U.S. senators. Much has changed since then, with Franken resigning his post under misconduct allegations and Tina Smith heading to Washington, D.C., as junior senator. State law requires the remaining two years of the Franken term be placed on the first available election ballot, so here we are in 2018 with a U.S. Senate special election.

After eight months on the job, Smith wants to be elected to the post to which Gov. Mark Dayton appointed her. The DFLer served as lieutenant governor under Dayton before her appointment.

Smith is facing significant competition from Karin Housley, a Republican state senator from the Stillwater area. Housley has served the St. Croix Valley in the state Senate since 2012 and has made a name for herself by championing causes such as elder abuse, long-term care needs and veterans issues. She also has name recognition thanks to her husband, Phil Housley, a NHL Hall of Fame member and now coach of the Buffalo Sabres.

Both candidates have strengths that would make them effective in Washington, but we offer our endorsement to Tina Smith for her knowledge, experience, insight and potential.

The candidates have similarities and distinct differences. 

Housley is energetic and enthusiastic, appearing eager to serve in the U.S. Senate. She ran her own business for 20 years before becoming state senator, and won re-election in 2016 by more than 20 percentage points. Housley supports many of President Trump’s policies and his approach to international relations. However, she also says she does not like Trump’s style. She expressed opposition to immigrant children being separated from their parents at the border and supports a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals participants.

Both Housley and Smith were well informed on the state’s agricultural issues. Smith is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and supports the Senate version of the farm bill currently in conference committee. Housley said she favors, in principle, expanding work requirements to earn food stamp benefits, but she said the farm bill is too important to stall over that stipulation.

On some other issues, Housley’s responses came up short. Her responses offered few details in addressing future deficits in Social Security and Medicare as well as foreign policy issues. She supports the $1.5 trillion tax law changes but expressed concern over the growing deficit, saying it will be necessary to cut federal expenses and continue to foster a growing GDP. On trade, some answers were vague, saying she “will listen to the people” on the Trump tariffs.

Smith is more reserved in her answers and presented a thoughtful approach to each topic during an interview with the Adams Publishing – ECM Editorial Board. She was very informed on all federal issues and offered her own opinion on each in a measured voice.

In her eight months in the Senate, she has been successful in helping move important legislation, including the farm bill, through to approval. She has promoted legislation to help control pharmaceutical drug costs. Smith coauthored legislation recently passed in the Senate to battle the opioid epidemic in rural America.

Smith said comprehensive immigration reform is necessary. Helping DACA children become citizens, improving the federal employment E-Verify system and reuniting the hundreds of children still separated from their parents is essential.

As for tariffs and trade, the country needs fair trade with our key trading partners, she said, especially Canada and Mexico.

Regarding Social Security funding, Smith said she would support changing the payroll earnings limit but did not favor increasing the age of eligibility for recipients. Medicare also needs reforms and she advocates allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with the drug companies in the same fashion utilized by the Veterans Administration.

Smith said she supports expanding training opportunities to help meet the jobs gap and using programs such as the PELL grant to make education affordable, but not necessarily free.

In the end, it is Smith’s depth of knowledge of the issues and her breadth of experience in government, business, health care and advocacy that places her above her opponent and gives her our endorsement. We believe Smith will serve all of the state’s population with diligence and an eye to consensus, and deserves election to the U.S. Senate.