Congress hopefuls talk issues without Gutknecht

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 25, 2002

The incumbent didn’t show, but that didn’t stop candidates for First District Congressman from debating national security and budget issues Thursday in Albert Lea.

With Republican Gil Gutknecht inexplicably absent, Democratic challenger Steve Andreason and Green Party candidate Greg Mikkleson debated at a League of Women Voters event at Riverland Community College.

Andreason, who spent 15 years on the National Security County staff for former presidents George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton, continued to distinguish himself from Gutknecht on national security and foreign policy issues.

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On Iraq, he said Congress should have done a better job of examining the President’s policy, saying the return of weapons inspectors was a better choice for disarming Saddam Hussein than use of force. He also said the nation needs more support from United Nations allies.

&uot;The President was right to take the issue to the UN and Congress,&uot; Andreason said. &uot;It was up to Congress to ask some hard questions.&uot;

Mikkleson, who is also endorsed by the Independence Party, said use of force should always be a last resort.

On education, both said the federal government’s unfunded special-education mandate is a severe hardship on schools. Although it promised to fund 40 percent of the cost, the government has only ponied up 14 percent.

&uot;Congress made a mistake last year,&uot; Andreason said. With a $5.6 trillion surplus, the House and Gutknecht voted first for tax cuts. Andreason said he would have placed more emphasis on a prescription drug benefit, full special education funding and protecting Social Security and Medicare.

Andreason also took the chance to blast his absent opponent for voting against the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill.

He said Gutknecht has had eight years in Congress to do the right thing, but hasn’t succeeded.

&uot;Eight is enough,&uot; Andreason said.