DAWSON -- A funny thing happened on the way to an election in District 20 A for the Minnesota House of Representative seat to be vacated by Aaron Peterson, DFL-Appleton.
DFL candidate Andrew Falk and Republican candidate Mike Bredeck found some common ground at the start of their first public debate Tuesday evening before just more than 50 people in Dawson.
Both want more equity in how rural and urban schools are funded, and support the state's renewable energy mandate for electrical utilities. Both want the state to make good on its promise of support payments to ethanol plants, especially after Falk pointed out that the state was $4.2 million behind in payments to the Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company in Benson.
But that's as far as they see eye-to-eye.
When it comes to solving the state's budget woes, Falk wants to see the state's tax structure "made fair." He said he would require the wealthiest Minnesotans to pay a similar portion of their incomes in taxes as low and middle income people.
Falk said most Minnesotans pay 12.2 percent of their incomes to taxes while the wealthy pay just over 8 percent.
Although he didn't use the term, Bredeck would approach the deficit by freezing the budgets of many agencies and department. He said what really needs to be cut in the state is what he termed the "growth" in many state agency budgets.
Their differences on the Big Stone II power plant was every bit as pronounced. Falk, a Murdock area wind developer, expressed support for the administrative law judges and their finding that Big Stone II would place an unnecessary burden on Minnesota rate payers. He charged that the power plant would sell most of its power to the Twin Cities and that its high voltage transmission lines would not carry the wind power as promised.
It would be too costly for wind power projects in western Minnesota to access the high voltage system. "It would be like building an eight-lane freeway to Minneapolis without entrance ramps," said Falk.
Bredeck said Minnesotans should not let "activist judges' get in the way of developing an important energy source for the state.
Expressing his support for the power plant, Bredeck said its transmission lines would open the way for wind power development.
"We cannot neglect one of the most abundant energy sources we have in the U.S., and that is coal," said Bredeck.
They differ just as sharply on issues like the Clean Water Legacy Amendment that would dedicate an increase in the sales tax for the environment and arts.
Stating that we have neglected our water resources for too long, Falk called the funding "vital" for our future.
Bredeck said he too favors clean water, but "this isn't the time" for a sales tax increase. The nation is facing a financial crisis and too many people are worried about paying their heating bills and keeping the electricity on, he said.
The contrast between the two candidates is only accented their difference in age and backgrounds. Falk, 25, is part of a fifth generation family farm near Murdock and a founder of Knight Energy, a wind development company. He emphasized not only his youth and enthusiasm for the job, but his experience the past year in working for renewable energy legislation in St. Paul. He also pointed to his support from State Senator Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, and the importance of having the district's senator and representative working together.
Bredeck, 59, of Madison, is a retired teacher and school counselor and a regional manager for the Catholic Aid Association, a fraternal insurance organization. He emphasized his work ethic and willingness to listen to people, and also his ability to work with people from both sides of the aisle.