Farmfest turns into virtual ‘Debatefest’

Farmfest near Redwood Falls has built a reputation for decades as a key stop on the campaign trail for Minnesota politicians seeking statewide office or congressional seats. Farmfest is all virtual this year because of the coronavirus and so are the political debates or forums.

Debates are being held in the U.S. Senate race and most congressional races. On Wednesday, one virtual event featured candidates from the 7th and 8th District races in western and northern Minnesota.

One key question all the candidates were asked to address was what they would do in Congress to help unite a divided country.

"Gov. Walz has been putting this one size fits all one-Minnesota plan in place while we’ve dealt with the COVID and it is obviously not working," said former state senator and lieutenant governor Michelle Fischbach, a Republican running for congress in the 7th District. "And so, yes, I believe in working with other people but not when it’s at the cost of rural Minnesota."

One of her Republican primary opponents, David Hughes, said he has doubts about uniting the country in the current political climate.

"When you’ve got educators and teachers unions wanting to stop teaching history and when they focus on all sorts of divisive things like race rather than our common values, again, I’m not sure what a bunch of legislators can do," Hughes said. "Especially not ones who’ve been in Washington for 30 years as our country has grown more and more divided."

One of those long-time members of Congress is Democratic 7th District incumbent Collin Peterson.

"We have been this divided at other times in our history and we’ll eventually figure out how to get through this," Peterson said. "In terms of urban and rural, I think part of the problem is our friends in the urban area just don’t understand rural America."

The two 8th District candidates taking part in the forum, Republican incumbent Pete Stauber and Democratic challenger Quinn Nystrom, cited their ability to work across party lines.

"The past 17 years of my life, I have fought for affordable and accessible health care at the state and federal level and in that time I’ve been able to be successful because I meet people from all political backgrounds," Nystrom said.

Stauber talked about his bipartisan work in Congress.

"I’m one of 50 members of Congress that are part of the Problem Solvers Caucus," Stauber said. "There are 25 Republicans and 25 Democrats out of 435 of us. We were the caucus that got the government back from shutdown. We helped with immigration and we’re helping right now with the COVID and a police accountability bill."

Both of those races were decided by single-digit percentage margins in 2018.

You can find more about Farmfest and watch debates live here.