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McNamara, Slaten pitch their strengths in forum

GOP Rep. Denny McNamara and his DFL challenger, Don Slaten, share a laugh after they participated in a League of Women Voters-sponsored forum Sept. 30 at Cottage Grove City Hall. The Hastings men are running for the Minnesota House District 54B seat. Rivertown Multimedia photo by Scott Wente

Rep. Denny McNamara and DFL challenger Don Slaten pitched different strengths, experiences and positions as they faced off in a televised election forum.

In seeking re-election to a seventh two-year term, McNamara said he has spent six years in the Minnesota House majority and another six in the minority. With Democrats controlling the governor’s office and the Senate, McNamara said it is important the GOP regains control in his chamber.

“We need balance,” McNamara said during the Sept. 30 forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters’ Woodbury/Cottage Grove chapter. “We need a Republican House majority so we can work together.”

Slaten tried to tie McNamara to what he said has been a “legacy of failing bridges and crumbling roads” in the past 12 years. He said McNamara did not carry the bill to fund construction of the new Highway 61 bridge in Hastings.

“He has failed our district, plain and simple,” Slaten said.

The two Hastings men are competing for the House District 54B seat. The district includes Hastings, the eastern portion of Cottage Grove, Afton, Denmark Township and Nininger Township.

Both agreed more money is needed for transportation. Slaten said roads, bridges and infrastructure spending should be covered through a “comprehensive” bonding bill, and it should pay for work across the state. He also called for more railroad-related safety training amid increased rail transport of oil through the region.

McNamara said the state needs to “adequately fund” road and bridge work.

“We have to find more money for it,” he said, claiming lawmakers could have spent money on transportation projects instead of funding a new Senate office building.

Each candidate said his background would serve the district well at the Capitol.

McNamara said 30 years as a small business owner has helped him as a lawmaker.

“That’s the best experience I’ve had and what really works in the Legislature,” he said, and he touted his bipartisan voting record.

Slaten, who serves on the Hastings Planning Commission and has held positions in township and county government, said he has a proven history of working with township, city and county officials.

“What I bring is the ability to compromise,” he said. “I bring that to the table to work with all people and all sides.”

There were a couple areas of agreement.

Both McNamara and Slaten said they believed the state could do more so-called “zero-based budgeting,” in which there are no built-in spending or inflationary assumptions as a budget is written. That could work for some areas of the state budget but not others, they said.

The opponents also agreed that the Legislature can best address state homelessness issues through housing programs that are included in state bonding bills.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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