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Local candidates debate hot topics in Moorhead

Two mayoral, two county commissioner and three state legislature candidates debated issues at the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 4.

A woman crouches next to a man in a wheelchair while that talk at a table.
Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson talking to mayoral candidate Kevin Nese Shores after a debate led by the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.
C.S. Hagen/The Forum
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MOORHEAD — Two mayoral, two county commissioner, and three state legislature candidates debated issues at the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 4.

Held at the Moorhead Public Library, the participants running for seats on the state legislature were all Democrats. No Republicans showed, except for a write-in candidate for state senate, Edwin Hahn, ousted as the chair of the Clay County Republicans last March.

Typically, the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley only allows statements and participation by party endorsed candidates, but the nonpartisan organization made an exception in Hahn’s case.

Hahn charged the Clay County Republican establishment as being “corrupt” and touting an “evil agenda” with “fake values,” he said in his statement read by a moderator.

Clay County Commissioner Jenna Kahly and Paul Krabbenhoft prepare to debate issues during a candidate platform held ata the Moorhead Public Library on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.jpg
Clay County Commissioner Jenna Kahly, incumbent and challenger Paul Krabbenhoft prepare to debate issues during a candidate platform held at the Moorhead Public Library on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.
C.S. Hagen/The Forum

Candidates for Clay County Commission, incumbent Jenna Kahly and local business owner Paul Krabbenhoft, were the first group to answer questions from the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley.

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Both agreed on placing importance on mental health issues, school funding, aging infrastructure and the current lack of child care services.

Krabbenhoft and Kahly disagreed on how to combat the growing rate of homeless people. Krabbenhoft, a Fargo-Moorhead Realtor for the past 34 years, said there was “Plenty of shelter around the two cities (Fargo and Moorhead) to help them through these issues.”

Kahly disagreed, saying that “We do not have adequate resources to meet the needs of the growing homeless population,” adding that there is also an issue of people across the county being “precariously housed,” which needed to be addressed.

Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson and opponent Kevin Nese Shores, an Anishinaabe and long time Moorhead resident, also debated.

Shores has previously run for mayor on three separate occasions in 2001, 2005 and 2013. He also ran for the 7th Congressional District seat in Minnesota in 2020.

Carlson was unanimously selected by the City Council to take over as mayor for Jonathan Judd in February 2021, so the race against Shores will be her first election for mayor.

Shores focused his platform on decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis, which he said could bring business to the area, and also work as a replacement for many materials used in society.

Some of the issues most important to Carlson included revitalizing downtown, improving roads and building a new library.

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Carlson was asked to address the Main Avenue reconfiguration project, which reduced the four-lane roadway to three lanes for evaluation and feasibility.

The mayor said it was experimental and would return to four lanes before winter.

“They will be looking at it to see if it can be a long term solution, or return it to the prior four lanes,” she said

Candidates for Minnesota state legislature, John Hest, Rep. Heather Keeler and Rob Kupec prepare for the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.jpg
Candidates for Minnesota state legislature, John Hest, Rep. Heather Keeler and Rob Kupec prepare for the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.
C.S. Hagen/The Forum

Rob Kupec, a meteorologist who is running for State Senate District 4 against Dan Bohmer, a Republican who beat out Hahn to win the GOP primary endorsement, both live in Moorhead.

Kupec’s vision for Moorhead was similar to Rep. Heather Keeler, and to John Hest, a Minnesota State Community and Technical College academic adviser who is running for a House seat in District 4B against Jim Joy, a Republican and mayor of Hawley.

Keeler, who beat Hahn for her seat in the House for District 4A in 2020, is running against Lynn Halmrast, a Republican, for the Nov. 8 election.

All three Democratic candidates agreed their districts needed to focus on mental health issues, eliminate income tax on Social Security income, fully fund public schools, and the importance of agriculture.

Candidates participating in the forum agreed there should be tighter regulations on gun control.

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“For me, it’s about protecting our kids. Suicide prevention, the actual issue we deal with is youth finding a gun and harming themselves or somebody else,” Keeler said.

Kupec said he was in favor of common sense gun safety, but to respect the 2nd Amendment.

"We certainly could strengthen our laws, and improve the system we have for background checks,” Kupec said.

Hest argued for more robust gun control, rather than looking into background checks.

“Minnesota has a pretty robust background check system in place, but none of us want a domestic abuser to have access to guns and turn around and kill someone," Hest said.

All three state legislature candidates had similar viewpoints on abortion, and that the the state should have laws protecting a woman’s access to health care.

C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
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