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Plain Talk: North Dakota's House candidates debate energy, economy, criminal justice reform, the postal service, Measure 3

You wouldn't expect these two candidates to find much to agree about, but during a debate I hosted on this episode of the Plain Talk, the two agreed on more than you might expect.

PHOTO: Kelly Armstrong, Zach Raknerud
Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), right, and Democratic-NPL House candidate Zach Raknerud, left

Kelly Armstrong is a Republican and the incumbent in North Dakota's U.S. House race this year. He's currently finishing his first term in that office.

Zach Raknerud is his opponent, endorsed by the Democratic-NPL earlier this year.

You wouldn't expect these two candidates to find much to agree about, but during a debate I hosted on this episode of the Plain Talk, the two agreed on more than you might expect.

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They found common ground on issues ranging from criminal justice reform, civil asset forfeiture, marijuana, and even Measure 3, a constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot this fall.

On Measure 3, specifically, Armstrong called the proposal "horrible."

While Raknerud said he needed to read up more on the measure, which would make dramatic changes to the state's political process including a ban on political party primaries and the use of ranked-choice voting on the statewide ballot, he said it's "troubling." He finds himself in "some agreement" with Armstrong's criticisms, not specifically that he believes the political parties should "have a voice" in primaries.

Each candidate supports the legalization of marijuana, though while Raknerud said he'd support that reform at the federal level, Armstrong said he'd rather the states take the lead.

Where the candidates had sharp disagreements was on social reforms from health care to the social safety net. Armstrong said Raknerud's proposals, including university government health care and a universal basic income, would cost at least $60 trillion, and accused his opponent of being a proponent of the "socialist Bernie Sanders model."

Raknerud countered by arguing that each plank in his policy platform is paid for by with adjustments to revenue. Armstrong derided this as tax hikes. Raknerud called it "capturing" wealth that's not yet part of the government's revenues.

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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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