FARGO-Prioritizing spending during a state budget shortfall is among the top priorities for the next legislative session, candidates for western Fargo and West Fargo's District 16 said Thursday, Oct. 20.
During a voter forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley, three incumbents and three challengers answered a range of questions that touched on funding human service and education needs, oil extraction taxes and if they believed voter fraud is a problem.
Republican Senate candidate David Clemens said he was concerned that a stricter voter ID law passed in 2012 was recently blocked by a federal judge, and said everyone should want tougher standards for voting.
"We are becoming a more diverse community, and I think some of that may constitute and require a little stricter guidelines when it comes to voting," he said.
Republican House candidate Andrew Marschall also said the right to vote must be safeguarded.
"We just have to make sure that we have the right things in place to go ahead and verify that no voter fraud is going on," he said. "Not that there is; I haven't seen it, and the system works, but we just have to make sure that it continues to work."
But Democrats, including House candidate Lisa Dullum, said voter fraud is an issue that isn't happening here.
"The system that we have is working," she said.
The candidates also split along party lines when asked if they would vote to expand anti-discrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, an effort that came up most recently in the 2015 legislative session and was defeated.
"I was proud to vote in favor of those bills and will continue to do so until no longer necessary," said Democratic-NPL Sen. Tyler Axness.
Democratic-NPL Rep. Ben Hanson also said he'd vote for a similar measure if it came up again.
"We need to make sure that everyone in this community feels welcome," he said.
The three Republican candidates said they opposed discrimination but worried such a measure would give preferential treatment to LGBT residents.
"Any bill that provides special privileges to a few at the expense of the many needs to be seriously questioned," Rep. Ben Koppelman said about the 2015 bill.