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Kennedy says morals should match politics

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 7/25/18

REGIONAL—North Branch Mayor Kirsten Kennedy isn’t afraid to talk about a subject that doesn’t enter the political discussion often in the age of Trump: Morals.

The longtime DFLer, who is …

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Kennedy says morals should match politics


REGIONAL—North Branch Mayor Kirsten Kennedy isn’t afraid to talk about a subject that doesn’t enter the political discussion often in the age of Trump: Morals.

The longtime DFLer, who is seeking the Eighth District congressional seat currently held by Rep. Rick Nolan, believes morality should be reflected in our politics.

“I talk about a moral economy,” she said, “and having our federal budget match our values.”

Those values, in Kennedy’s view, include a sincere desire to rebuild the struggling middle class by providing the kind of supports that make that possible. “To accomplish this goal, we need to increase wages and provide affordable benefits in our existing industries,” said Kennedy. “Raising the federal minimum wage and tying it to inflation is a start, but it’s not enough. We also need to address student debt, which keeps young families from succeeding and limits them from attending college or trade school in the first place.”

At the same time, she supports strengthening safety nets for working families, including providing affordable childcare, healthcare, housing, and fully-funded public education, including preschool. She’s also opposed to any attempt to privatize Social Security. “That’s paramount if we want our district to flourish,” she said.

She also sees the moral dimension in the recent revelations of serial sexual harassment by a former senior member of Rep. Nolan’s Washington staff. “It’s about how you act when no one is looking,” she said. Kennedy has had a close political relationship with Nolan and she said he’s always acted appropriately with her. Still, she said the recent revelation is no surprise, given the prevalence of the problem in society and she said she’s disappointed that the alleged offender, chief policy director Jim Swiderski, was not held accountable. “And we can’t say it’s fixed just because we’re having the conversation,” she said.

Kennedy puts much of the onus for a solution to the problem on men. “This isn’t a women’s issue, this is a man’s issue,” she said, and believes that progress will be possible only when men understand their role in the solution. Kennedy said that she’s had her own #MeToo moment in her life and says: “I’ll breathe fire to make sure an article like this never has to be written again.”

Unlike some of the other candidates in the race, Kennedy isn’t campaigning full-time. She continues to perform her duties as mayor and continues to work full-time for the non-profit Statewide Health Improvement Partnership. Her work has its own moral dimension, focusing, she said, on “how we take care of each other and allow everyone to live a life of dignity.”

It appears that much of her politics is grounded in that philosophy of caring, and it shows up in specific policy goals. She’s worked with veterans suffering from PTSD, which has exposed her to the substantial benefits of medical marijuana. And while doctors can legally prescribe the drug in Minnesota, Kennedy said veterans can potentially lose federal benefits if they test positive for marijuana use. That’s why she supports a change in federal law to allow the use of medical marijuana, not only to allow for effective treatment of a number of maladies but as a potential growth industry that could employ Minnesotans.

For Kennedy, there is a moral concern, as well, over the Trump administration’s treatment of undocumented immigrants and refugees. She said she supports a path to citizenship for the 11 million currently undocumented immigrants, a move that she said would increase the nation’s gross domestic product and tax revenues by billions of dollars annually.

“It’s time to restructure ICE,” Kennedy says, referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which has stepped up its deportations of the undocumented in recent years, including many with no criminal record other than entering the country illegally. “America has thrived for 226 years without its overreach,” said Kennedy, noting that ICE has existed for less than 20 years. “For too long, this agency’s power has ballooned, going virtually unchecked with devastating results,” Kennedy said. “Immigrants are the backbone of our society. They benefit our workforce, our economy and our values. Immigrants are who we are.”

On healthcare, Kennedy favors bolstering the existing Affordable Care Act, while supporting a phased transition to a universal, single-payer system. She said she favors allowing Americans to immediately qualify for full Medicare at age 62 and lowering that eligibility age to 58 within two-to-three years. “Anyone under that age could buy into it as a public option,” she said.

On the economy, Kennedy said she’s concerned about the shortage of workers, particularly skilled workers, and she believes that immigration can help play a part in addressing the increasingly-serious issue. “We need immigration because we need a workforce,” she said.

As a mayor, Kennedy said she’s aware of the challenges that communities face in obtaining funds for infrastructure, which is why she supports a major federal infrastructure program with a jobs guarantee for those Americans who want one.

She has joined some other congressional candidates in calling for a Green New Deal as part of any infrastructure plan, in order to reorient the economy toward a more sustainable direction. That would include an aggressive timeline to phase out fossil fuel-vehicles by 2030 and a shift to 100-percent renewable energy sources by 2035. She also opposes any new oil pipelines, according to her website.

She also said she objects to the recent legislation, that was pushed by fellow DFLers, Sen. Tina Smith and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, to enact a land exchange for the PolyMet copper-nickel project near Hoyt Lakes.

“I call on my fellow constituents to stand with me against fast-tracking legislation on any issue to circumvent public involvement to the benefit of multinational corporations who do not have the best interests of Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District citizens in mind,” she said.

Kennedy’s view on copper-nickel has changed significantly from the views she expressed during a candidate’s forum in Hibbing in March. When questioned about the change, Kennedy said she has kept an open mind and has learned more about the issue. “Since the forum, I have spoken with citizens, expert scientists, health professionals, legal professionals, and countless others on both sides of the issue,” said Kennedy. “I think we need to do further study, especially about different storage methods and a health impact study. We need to create an independent non-partisan mining commission to ensure that rules and regulations are being followed, conduct independent studies, and hold corporations accountable. We also need to make sure that Congress doesn’t legislatively overreach by preempting citizens from their due process by circumventing the state and the court system.”

Kennedy’s position shift on the most divisive issue in the race somewhat alters the dynamics of the race. Former KBJR news anchor Michelle Lee had been the only candidate in the race who had come out against copper-nickel mining, over clean water concerns, but now Kennedy is likely to tap a portion of that constituency.

Kennedy would appear to be a long-shot in the race. The only polling in the race showed her in fourth place, in both support and name recognition, and she has raised just over $10,000 since the beginning of the race, far less than the other DFL candidates. And as the sole breadwinner for her family of five, she said she has to continue to work two jobs to make ends meet.  “I don’t have the luxury of being retired, or being able to take 18 days to drive around the district,” she said. “I work two jobs and am running for Congress. I know what it is to decide between paying for food or medication— like so many of the people here, because I am living it each day.”


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It would be nice to have some new faces whom are morally honest and not owned by big business. Somebody who will actually realize they are working for us if we hire them thru the voting process.

Too many after being elected think it is the other way around.

Sunday, July 29, 2018