FULL DEBATE: Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District debate

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With the Midterm Election just three weeks away, candidates for Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District participated in a debate at the WDIO News studio on Wednesday. Democratic State Representative Jen Schultz and incumbent Republican Congressman Pete Stauber agreed to the ground rules and procedures for the 40-minute commercial-free debate.

WDIO’s Baihly Warfield and Darren Danielson welcomed the candidates and explained the rules. Each candidate would give a one minute opening statement, followed by Baihly and Darren asking a series of prepared questions. Each candidate would have one minute to respond to the question, followed by a 30-second rebuttal if needed.

Opening Statements:

Pete Stauber: Good evening and thanks to WDIO and Darren and Baihly for moderating this event. And to our viewers watching tonight. And I also want to welcome my opponent to the studio in her first congressional debate. When I talk to my constituents, they are worried, inflation is sky rocketing. Minnesota families are feeling enormous pain at the pump every time they fill up their gas tank. And now Minnesotans can expect record heating bills this winter, as Joe Biden takes us further into a recession. Rather than issue a blank check, Congress must provide checks and balances to Joe Biden’s failed economic and energy policies that are costing every Minnesota family an additional $6,000 per year. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. With your help, we can turn this around. I look forward to tonight’s discussion on how we can get America back on track.

Jen Schultz: I want to thank WDIO, Darren and Baihly for hosting this event. I’m Jen Schultz and I am running for congress to solve problems and get things done. For the last 8 years, I served as a state representative all while serving in a divided legislature, working with people from all parties. I grew up in a rural community, raised by a single mother. I know how to solve problems and I’ve learned this throughout my term in office. We’ve been endorsed by 7 of the largest newspapers throughout the district. And by many, many labor organizations. I put myself through college and went to graduate school at the University of Minnesota, and as an economist I know how to work on the issues that are of concern to you in Washington. I’ve traveled throughout the district and what I hear from people is that people are tired of the polarization. They want elected officials to deliver results not play politics.

WDIO reached out to viewers and asked what issues matter to them.

Following the question and answer period, each candidate was given one minute for closing statements.

  • One of the most important problems facing the county today is the collective dissatisfaction with the government and poor leadership. How does Congress change its negative perception in the minds of Americans?

Pete Stauber: Well I agree that divisiveness in Washington must stop. We have to work together to promote good policies, good energy policies, economic policies that move America forward. I’ve witnessed the divisiveness. But within my own sphere of influence, I work across aisles with both Democrats and Republicans. And I get legislation across the finish line to be signed in to law. One of the things that I want to really do is to build relations with others across the aisle. And that’s what I’m doing. I have good friends. We can disagree on important issues but we don’t have to lose the civility in our conversations with each other. We all want the same thing for our country. We want to make it better, stronger, and leave a future more prosperous than the greatest generation gave to us. So my commitment is to work across the aisle to benefit…

Jen Schultz: Thank you for that question. It is a concern for everybody in the district as I’ve traveled throughout. I have eight years experience of only working in a divided legislature. I’ve been very successful at getting local projects done. We’ve invested in local hospitals in Duluth. We are cleaning up the St. Louis River with my work at a Great Lakes Commissioner. Working with people across the aisle from eight other states and two Canadian Provinces. I’ve only worked in divided legislature, meaning I’m working with Republicans in the Senate and Republicans in the House. In fact in a contentious year, I was able to pass two large health and human services bills to help people who are suffering from drug addiction, mental health issues, homelessness, public safety. I am proud of this work and I want to go to D.C. to build relationships like I have the last eight years to get things done for you. I really want to strengthen our communities and invest in things we all care about.

Pete Stauber Rebuttal: The fact of the matter is I’m doing that in Washington D.C. right now, reaching across the aisle building relations, really true relations with my collegues on the other side of the aisle so we can promote good legislation that’s good for the country, and moves us all forward.

Jen Schultz Rebuttal: Thank you. I’m very interested tonight to hear about my opponent’s success in congress in his four years. I believe he has accomplished very little. He’s been very partisan in playing politics and blaming others. I want him to tell us what his solutions are, and what he’s actually accomplished in his four-year career.

  • Trying to make ends meet is the top concern for many Minnesotans. With the rising price of gasoline, groceries, and the overall cost of living going up, how do we fix inflation?

Jen Schultz: Well, I was raised by a single mother who raised me and my sister. My mother divorced my father because he suffered from alcoholism and we were poor. I know what it’s like to struggle. I know what families are experiencing because I’m listening to people. And we can solve this problem. I’m an economist and I understand what we need to do to mitigate any signs of further inflation or recession. And I know how important it is to have affordable housing, affordable health care and affordable child care. Unfortunately, my opponent has voted against bills to address inflation. He voted against cheaper drugs, lower heath insurance premiums, debt reduction. Money for people struggling to pay their heating bills, protections from price gouging corporations and voted against incentives to use domestic minerals. He’s voting against labor, against working families, against older adults. Against the Iron Range.

Pete Stauber: Inflation is crushing Minnesota families and Americans in general. And it has to do with Biden’s failed energy and economic policies. Remember five hours after Joe Biden was sworn in, he declared war on American energy by stopping the XL Keystone Energy. He continues to do that today. He has banned federal oil drilling on federal lands. That’s unacceptable. We need to be energy independent once again. And we have to have the political will to do it. When he stops traditional energy production in America, it’s costing us all. Look at what we’re paying for gasoline. Record high prices for gasoline. Heating oil and natural gas is going to go through the roof this winter because of Joe Biden’s failed energy policies. We need to be energy independent. We have the ability to do that and have to have the political will to do so.

Jen Schultz Rebuttal: Well the people of this district are smart enough to know it’s not just one person or president, he does not control gas prices. My opponent takes lots of money from fossil fuel companies. We should ask him to ask these companies why are they exporting so much fossil fuel outside the U.S. President Biden is releasing 15 million gallons from our strategic petroleum reserve. That’s going to help us. But it’s two countries, Saudi Arabia and Russia. They are limiting the supply of petroleum and that’s affecting our gas prices. We need to go after price gouging.

Pete Stauber Rebuttal: The fact of the matter is, American energy is abundant. We have to have the political will to do it. We have more energy in the Permian Basin and eastern New Mexico than all OPEC nations put together. We can’t have the President of the United States going to beg OPEC nations for oil. And now he’s going to Iran and Venezuela to beg for oil. We have the opportunity to be energy independent here. We just have to have the politic will to drill in America.

  • The voters of Northeast Minnesota are sending the winning candidate to Washington to consider their needs. What legislation do you plan to introduce that will improve quality of life in NE Minnesota? –WDIO viewer, Mike Pappas

Pete Stauber: First of we have to stop the reckless spending out of Washington which has skyrocketed infation. We also have to have the political will to mine the critical minerals here in the United States. We have the biggest copper nickel find in the world. We have 95% of the nation’s nickel reserve. 88% Of the cobalt, over a third of the copper and other platnum group metals right here in the Duluth complex. We have to mine those minerals if we’re going to transform over to alternative sources of energy. This president pulled two federal leases for political reasons only and didn’t allow the environmental impact statement to move forward. That’s creating great paying jobs. That’s a billion-dollar industry for the Iron Range every year. And this president simply will not allow that. He must get on the side of the American worker.

Jen Schultz: We need to diversify the jobs in the entire district. That’s what people need. We need to strengthen our mining and mining industry. And we need to move forward by investing in the research and the technology that’s needed for the science to make sure we can do mining safely. And I know that can be done. My opponent has done nothing to invest and has done nothing for our miners and our mining industry. But people need affordable housing. They need affordable healthcare and affordable child care. We need to make the key investments in education for our region to succeed. I want to make sure we’re investing even in our smallest communities. I was up in Baudette and I can see what happens when we have good schools. I met a couple who moved to Baudette, they had a choice between South Dakota and Baudette. They chose Baudette because they have good schools, and now they have opened up two successful businesses. We can do that throughout the district. But we need people to go to D.C. and work hard for everyone.

Pete Stauber Rebuttal: It’s interesting my opponent brings up mining. My opponent co-authored the most anti-mining bill in the history of the state of Minnesota. And she stands here tonight and talks about her support for mining. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is, inflation is causing a heartache for so many people. Our seniors are devastated because of the inflation and what we need to do is bring these jobs back to America.

Jen Schultz Rebuttal: Yes, the prove it first legislation should not be controversial. It is not controversial because everyone I’ve talked to, I’ve visited all of our mines and visited with everyone on every side of the issue, and people all agree we cannot pollute the water. This bill simply says we need to do safe mining without polluting the water. It’s not controversial. I want to do more for our mining industry. I have ideas, I want to work on what’s called an iron air battery that takes our iron ore and makes hundreds of jobs available in the district.

  • Copper nickel mining is a polarizing issue. Those in favor say it will add hundreds of good paying jobs and bring over $500 million dollars to the local economy. Opponents are concerned copper nickel mining carries too many risks of heavy metal water pollution that traditional iron ore mining does not. Can we move into copper nickel mining and protect Northern Minnesota’s critically important watershed?

Jen Schultz: I’ve done my homework on this issue, I’ve been working on things like this for 8 years. I’ve been to Twin Metals, I’ve been to Polymet, I’ve been to Talen, which they want to mine nickel. And I’ve met with miners, the mining industry, environmentalists, people who are anti-mining, people who are pro-mining and what we need is a champion to bring everyone to the table including our tribes. If we don’t all come to the table and work this out, it gets litigated in court and mining doesn’t happen. We need to figure out how to do it without polluting the water. NRRI, a research institute affiliated with the University of Minnesota Duluth has four technologies. But they need to scale up those technologies and they need federal investment to do that. My opponent has not done one thing to bring back that federal investment to help our researchers, our entrepreneurs figure this problem out. I have a long history of solving problems. I want to solve this problem too.

Pete Stauber: The answer is yes we can do both. We can have a clean environment and mine in Northeastern Minnesota. We’ve been doing it for 135 years. We have the cleanest water in the state right in the heart of the Iron Range. Mining helped win us two World Wars. And now we’re in the alternative energy transition. We need these critical minerals, we need the copper and the nickel. We need the cobalt, we need the other platinum group metals we use in our everyday life. My opponent has built her political career in St. Paul with anti-mining activists. Again, she co-authored the most anti-mining piece of legislation in this state’s history. What we need to do, is mine safely using the best environmental standards and the best labor standards. We have the technology. We can use 21st technology to increase our mining and we can do that right here in Minnesota and on the Iron Range and bring great paying jobs.

Jen Schultz Rebuttal: Well, my opponent voted against the Chips act, he voted against the inflation reduction act. All of these things had incentives to use our domestic minerals to bring back domestic manufacturing. He is anti-jobs congress person because he’s not supporting development in research and investments in bringing new jobs in mining and other fields to the district. Ask him what he has done. We have a mine idling. We have Hibtac that could idle. We have the steelworkers trying to negotiate a contract with US Steel.

Pete Stauber Rebuttal: Mining is our past, our present and our future. I can assure you that our future is bright. The Iron Range is going to lead the alternative energy transition just like we did in the early 1800s. We are going to start mining critical minerals and we’re going to do it right. Bring great paying jobs and build up the Iron Range economy as it should be. We cannot allow the anti-mining and anti-jobs group to dominate.

  • Do you consider the Supreme Court Overturning Roe vs Wade a victor or setback for America? And why?

Pete Stauber: I recognize this is a deeply personal issue. My wife and I have five children and one that’s adopted. We also have a special needs child who brings us joy every day. I believe in the sanctity of life. I believe that every life matters. And I am proud to be pro-life. But what I don’t support is Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and my opponent’s position on abortion. Which is taxpayer funded abortion, on demand, without limits, up until the moment of birth.

Jen Schultz: I believe that is a setback, the ruling of the Supreme Court. I’m the only pro-choice candidate in this race. I support our rights to abortion and our rights to contraception. My opponent even voted against our right to contraception. He’s allowed states to ban abortion even without exceptions for rape or incest. He said he wanted states to make the decision. Then my opponent signed on to the national ban on abortion, which criminalizes physicians for providing reproductive healthcare. I will not allow us to go back 50 years. Women are not second-class citizens. We need to defend our right to privacy, our right to access to reproductive health, our right to choose and our right to contraception. I believe we have to codify this and that’s the first thing I will do when I get to congress, is codify Roe V. Wade to make sure we restore rights to those that have been taken away in other states.

Pete Stauber Rebuttal: Again, I don’t agree with Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and my opponent’s extreme position on abortion which is taxpayer funded abortion, on demand without limits, up until the moment of birth.

Jen Schultz Rebuttal: That is not true. Only 1% of abortions occur after 21 weeks. My opponent is, again, consistent at least by misinforming the public and spreading disinformation. We do not believe that women are using abortion for birth control. That is simply not true. Many abortions, it’s a medical procedure used to protect the life of the mother. Many women are…

  • Election Integrity continues to be debated as we head into this midterm election. Do you believe President Biden won the election in 2020? –WDIO viewer, Carolyn

Jen Schultz: Yes, President Biden won the election. Unfortunately my opponent believes in the big lie. He signed on to the Texas lawsuit that tried to invalidate the Presidential election. In fact, he is voting against voting rights. He voted against an election reform bill that would protect and increase the security of our Presidential election. He is trying to take away our fundamental right to vote. He wants to get rid of same day voter registration. Something we’ve had for 50 years. Something that is safe. There is very little voter fraud occurring. People make simple mistakes. We have a very safe and secure election process in Minnesota. I am proud about the number of people who come out to vote. I hope we have a very high voter turnout this year in the midterm. So please remember to vote early or vote on November 8th.

Pete Stauber: Americans know that Joe Biden is President, every time they fill up their gas tank, with record high gas prices. Americans know every time they pay their monthly heating bill, Joe Biden is President. Americans know every time they go to the grocery store and pay three and four times higher for groceries, they know Joe Biden is President. And every time Americans turn on the evening news and see our wide open southern border allowing 100,000 illegal immigrants to enter our country. Some are drug runners, some are violent criminals and some are human traffickers. Americans know Joe Biden is our president because they are feeling the pain every day.

Jen Schultz Rebuttal: My opponent needs to remember who he’s running against. He’s not running against Biden or Nancy Pelosi. He’s running against me. I have 8 years of experience. I supported an automatic voter registration bill. I want to make it easier for people to vote. When they automatically register when they renew or start a driver’s license, people can check multiple identification purposes. It is a safe way. Also, I like to hear what the solutions are to the problems that my opponent keeps addressing.

Pete Stauber Rebuttal: Americans are feeling the pain as Joe Biden punishes them with the highest inflation of 40 years. Record high gas prices, record high energy prices. America knows Joe Biden is President because they are feeling the pain every day.

  • US News and World Report put together a report ranking the quality of life of all countries in the world. The key aspects considered included: access to quality food, good housing, quality education, access to good health care, access to good jobs, low crime rates, a healthy environment, and strong individual freedom. US News and World Report has Sweden ranked as the #1 country on the planet for quality of life for its citizens… followed by Denmark, then Canada at number #3. America comes in at #21. What will it take to improve the quality of life for our citizens to move us at least into the Top 10 of this ranking?

Pete Stauber: We have a lot of work to do on this issue. America should lead in every category across the board. America’s leadership has been diminished because of Joe Biden. What we need to do right now is come together, allow a free, a prosperous nation, with more opportunities. Giving our young people hope. We live in the best country in the world. But what’s happening right now is the high crime rates happening. Darren, you mentioned the crime rates. It’s unfortunate that the defund and disarm police movement has been devastating to our safety within our communities. My opponent voted to disarm and voted to defund the police. That’s having real consequences across our country. That’s what we’re seeing the chaos in the rising crime across our communities.

Jen Schultz: We are one of the wealthiest countries and no one should have to struggle. I know what it was like to be poor when I was young. My mother became a successful person after she went to school, got educated, got a job. She raised two successful daughters. I know how hard I worked to put myself through college with grants and student loans. I know the government can be a force for good. I know how the government can work with all of us to do good things. People want investments in their schools. People want investments so they can afford a house. They want people to move to this district, to find a job in the district, and raise their children in the district. This is what is important to most people in the district. We need to fund paid family leave. Most countries have it. We need to make sure everyone has access to high-quality healthcare. We have many areas that in our district that are very rural that don’t have good access to health care, that has to be a priority.

Pete Stauber Rebuttal: Again, we have a lot of work to do to bring this nation back to prosperity. We have to have good policies, good sound policies, economic policies, energy policies. Crime, we have to reduce crime. We have to not allow criminals, not allow drug dealers to run our streets. The most important issue when you ask Americans is safety for them and their families. When a single mother can’t go to the playground because she’s concerned her children…

Jen Schultz Rebuttal: A lot of that is not true. I voted in favor of investing $340 million in policing law enforcement public safety when every House Republican voted no. My opponent voted no on a $350 billion investment in law enforcement. I don’t know how he can stand there and say he supports our police. He’s worried about crime when he voted against a huge investment to help our police address all of the concerns…

  • In August, President Biden announced his decision to cancel up to $10,000 in student loan debt for individuals making less than $125,000 a year or as much as $20,000 for eligible borrowers who were also Pell Grant recipients. Do you support this student loan forgiveness?

Jen Schultz: We have to address the underlying problems of why higher education is so expensive. As a college professor for the last almost 20 years, it is awful to see students struggling, to pay for their housing, to have go to food shelves to support themselves, or to work full time and go to school full time. It needs to be more affordable. We need to address the underlying cost of higher education, and frankly and all types of training to get students ready for the workforce. Ready to be a productive citizen in this country. I am really sad to say that my opponent had a $80,000 loan that was forgiven, and almost the same day he came out against student loan debt forgiveness when he himself benefited from a loan forgiveness program. I’m all about supporting our businesses, and I’m glad we had our programs to get people through a very trying period in this country. But to say that…

Pete Stauber: First off, I want to go back to the last question. I want to be crystal clear. My opponent publically pledged to an anti-police group, that she was going to defund the police and cash bail, allow felons to vote, and the minimum sentencing, and release violent criminals from jail. That’s a fact that she publically pledged to anti-policing group. Now to this question. No person who didn’t go to college should have to pay, should have to be forced to pay for a student loan for another student. That’s unfair. Why would you allow a grandmother in Hinckley to force her to pay for someone else’s student loans? That’s just not fair. What we have to do is actually ask ourselves why is college tuition out pacing inflation on average the last ten years? It’s got to be more affordable.

Jen Schultz Rebuttal: I have never been in front of anti-policing group so I have no idea what my opponent is talking about. My husband is criminologist, I learn about policing every day. I 100% support our law enforcement. My late father is a retired firefighter and EMT. I know that we have problems because we can’t fill positions. We need to make sure we’re investing so we can hire the best and the brightest to protect our communities. I will always fight for our first responders and for our law enforcement.

Pete Stauber Rebuttal: First off, here’s my opponent’s public pledge to this anti-policing group. The fact of the matter is, what we need to do, is we need to look at the root cause of the cost of education. And, again, why it’s out pacing inflation. And it’s got to be more affordable. Also we also have to look at the opportunities that career and technical education can offer. There’s a route for those people that are going to go to college…

  • Per capita the United States sends more people to prison than any other country in the world. Is the incarceration rate in the US and in Minnesota a problem?

Pete Stauber: Darren, I think the crime rate is going off the charts. It’s because of the defund and disarm the police movement. You know, police retention recruitment and moral is at the lowest it’s ever been. It’s because of my opponent’s agenda that is causing the chaos in crime to rise. I’ve talked to hundreds of police officers throughout the country. They are leaving the profession and many young men and women don’t want to come into police work because the defund, disarm, disrespect, and disparage the police my opponent is leading. She publically pledged to defund the police and cash bail, allow felons to vote and minimum sentencing. Release violent criminals from jail. This was her public pledge in 2020 to anti-policing group. The fact of the matter is we have to support law enforcement. And the men and women in blue know that I have their backs.

Jen Schultz: Well, we do need to look at incarceration. We should talk about legalizing cannabis in this state and decriminalizing it. I think that could help. But what we don’t want to do is privatize our prison. We need to do rehabilitation of those incarcerated, so when they are released, they can be productive citizens and finish their education and they can contribute to our tax base. My opponent voted against the January 6th Insurrection and the investigation that injured 140 D.C. and Capitol police and led to some deaths. He voted against the consideration of package of bills to promote and invest in law enforcement, to invest in mental health professionals, getting them the training and the tools they need to respond to emergencies. So, please, look at our voting record, not at what he says. Because his voting record is different than what he is saying.

Pete Stauber Rebuttal: As a 23 year police officer, the police know I have their backs. I was on the front lines. I looked evil in the eye. We must invest in our police. We must stop the defund and disarm the police movement that my opponent has championed in St. Paul.

Jen Schultz Rebuttal: That is just not true. Last time I checked, my opponent was in Congress. He has the tools and the staff and the ability to address incarceration. To address crime. And he has done absolutely nothing. I’m on record voting in favor of $340 million investment in our police, our law enforcement, public safety. I’m on the record supporting issues when people face drug addiction or mental health. I’m voting for them.

  • Because of redistricting The Minnesota Congressional 8th District now represents all the tribes of the native peoples of Minnesota. One of the biggest issues among the tribal communities is impoverishment and unemployment. How can you help bring more native people out of poverty?

Jen Schultz: This is the first time all 7 Tribes north of the Twin Cities are in this district. They are going to have a powerful voice. I’m going to make sure they are heard. I’ve been visiting with all of our Tribes, all of our Tribal bands and nations to make sure I understand what their needs are, what their concerns are. In fact in Grand Portage, they need a waste water treatment facility. In Boise Forte by Nett Lake, they have to drive 50 miles to vote. These are things we need to solve. They need better representation. My opponent doesn’t show up. He’s not having in-person public town halls. He’s not going to the communities I’m going to. We need to make sure you have someone that listens to you, someone that shows up, and someone that works hard to get things done. People want results. They want solutions. You can talk about crime all you want. Tell us what you are doing to solve the problem.

Pete Stauber: Thanks for the question. It’s an important question. I’ve built great relations with our Native American community. I just had dinner with Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Executive Director, Kathy Chambers, last week. We talked about in the next congress how we can work together, how we can build relations and actually put legislation forward that positively affects all of our tribes. One of the things we must consider, our Native American community, many of the members own, like, for instance, construction companies. Line 3 that my opponent did not support, Line 3 had Native American business owners working on that Line 3. Making good money, bringing wages to our economy. That’s what we have to support. We have to support this infrastructure. We have to support the mining. The Native American community deserves it, and I am going to continue building relations with my friends.

Closing Statements:

Jen Schultz This election, you have a clear choice. My opponent, who the 7 largest papers in the District that previously endorsed him said he’s too partisan and unresponsive to his constituents. Who takes corporate money, he is bought by corporations, who doesn’t show up, who has accomplished almost nothing. Or you can vote for me. Someone who has a proven record of solving problems. 8 years of working across the aisle to get things done. I am not bought by corporate interests, I’m not accepting any corporate pack money. I’m going to be accountable to you the voter. I’m going to get things done, I’m going to show up, I’m going to listen. I’m going to work for everyone, because I believe when we invest in our communities, when we invest in people, we all do better. I’m going to work for your support and your vote. Thank you.

Pete Stauber: Thanks for everybody who was watching tonight. I believe in the workers. I believe in our mining and manufacturing. And all the industries that are abundant here in the Northland. I believe in working families. You are doing everything you can to stay afloat in Biden’s failed economy, which is costing you thousands and thousands more each year. Your savings, your retirement security savings is threatened. Your savings accounts are depleted. And that doesn’t have to be that way. I understand what you are feeling. Because Jodi and I, raising six children, are feeling that pain too. We must stop Joe Biden’s reckless spending that has led to a 40-year high which is punishing American families.