*We are continuing our Meet the Candidates conversations for the November 3rd, 2020 elections. We recently talked with Jeremiah Liend (DFL) running for MN House District 2a against incumbent Representative Matt Grossell (R). Find information on his MN House record as well.
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*KAXE/KBXE News and Public Affairs Director Heidi Holtan recently spoke with Jeremiah Liend. The following transcript has been edited for clarity. The audio of this interview is available at the top of this page.
(Heidi Holtan) Q: Jeremiah Liend is the DFL candidate for house district 2A. That district includes Beltrami, Clearwater, Lake of the Woods, and part of Hubbard County. The current seat is held by Representative Matt Grossell, a Republican. Jeremiah Liend joins us now. Thanks for being with us today. So why are you running for this house seat?
(Jeremiah Liend) A: I am running for my kids to make sure that they grew up in a world that isn't dirtier, or sicker or poorer than the one I grew up in. I try to do that or work towards that every day, but I'm sort of upping my game and challenging myself by running for office and trying to apply some of these plans that I have on a larger scale.
Q: I've looked through your website a little bit, and there's a lot of things that you have listed there. I'm going to make you limit your priorities to the district, to just two. What would you say are the biggest things that you would want to take on if you're elected to this seat?
A: The top two issues, I think that need to be addressed before any of the other platform can really be deployed, I feel is creating a comprehensive plan to address COVID. To try to make sure that the impacts from that disease are mitigated as best they can. Also to work towards creating inroads for health care access for all Minnesota. There's already legislation being proposed for Minnesota Care E, essentially Minnesota Care for everyone, to make sure that nobody has to struggle through lacking insurance. The healthcare industry was experiencing so many challenges before the pandemic, and it has really exposed the weaknesses in the systems. Speaking for myself, I lost my health insurance a month into the pandemic when my insurer quadrupled my premiums. And so we need solutions that make sure no Minnesotans are left out in the cold in terms of our healthcare system.
And then finally, the important thing for me is to try to apply some governmental and electoral reform. Like our healthcare system, our system of government, we're also experiencing so many challenges that are sort of getting, I feel back-burnered. As we look at how to adapt our voting and our campaigning strategies for this disease, I want to make sure that everybody has a right to vote, that they can do so safely, and that their vote is counted.
Q: I can hear some chickens in the background. Am I right?
A: There are some chickens in the background. Yes. We're at Lynn Baker farms in sunny downtown Turtle River today.
Q: You mentioned the pandemic. I'm wondering your thoughts on how the state of Minnesota has handled the pandemic so far?
A: Minnesota of course has a lot of challenges facing it. I feel like the issues that Minnesota faced are similar to all the other States, which are federal leadership sort of distributed their responsibilities downward, and that no state really had a comprehensive response plan to a pandemic of this scale. So obviously, everybody is just sort of doing the best they can. I can't really fault people for misinterpreting a model inaccurately, but the thing that I'm really concerned about is how we are reopening our schools. And how that's going to move forward with all of these things. You know, hindsight is 20-20, but if we don't learn lessons from the mistakes that have been made in our future planning, then we're going to be doomed to repeat them. So rather than criticize, I would just like to look for learning opportunities so that we can respond better than we have.
Q: We are speaking with Jeremiah Liend today. He is the DFL candidate for House District 2A. Over the years, as I've talked to rural legislators, they say part of their role in Saint Paul is to bring rural issues or non-urban issues there. What do you see in terms of your role in that?
A: I think that that's an incredibly important role for somebody from this area, because there is a cultural divide between rural Minnesota and metro Minnesota. That's something that I feel confident saying, having lived in both places, having grown up in this area, and having to go other places to get my education, and having lived in Saint Paul for six years. I'm aware that there is a divide and a misunderstanding, I believe that we can bridge. That's our campaign slogan: building bridges to a better tomorrow. And part of that is building a better bridge of communication between this area and Saint Paul. So that they understand our needs and how they can best be met, and how important our area is to Minnesota as a whole. I don't like the term out-state Minnesota. I call it greater Minnesota because it's the playground of Minnesota. It's the natural beauty and wonder that we think of when we think of Minnesota, and it's an important place. I think as a representative, no job can be more important than telling people how important it is to the state.
Q: Well, let's stick with that idea of being a playground, and being the environment people want to come to. But there's often this false narrative of it's either jobs or it's the environment...that there isn't something in between. What are your thoughts on that?
A: Right. I think that's a very false dichotomy. I don't think that divide exists. I think that there are more sustainable jobs and there are less sustainable jobs. So, one crucial difference between my opponent and myself, is that he suggests that the answer for jobs in the area is a pipeline. He wants to see Line 3, inject a whole bunch of money into the system, as they put in another oil pipeline. But ten years ago, a pipeline came through Beltrami County. I was around the area at the time taking care of my grandmother, and so I was able to sort of look and see the impact that it had. What happened is a whole bunch of people rushed into town from out of state. The prices for rent skyrocketed. A landlord could charge a thousand dollars a month for a one bedroom.
There was an uptick in bar and restaurant sales, and then at the end of that pipeline project, those jobs went away. Those people went away, and that injection to the economy was gone. As a different example to that, there was a dental company that opened in Bemidji. They needed high speed internet to be able to run a nationally, interconnected company. So, they built a multimillion dollar facility, and construction workers came from both locally and from around to help build the building. It created a bunch of jobs there. Then they went on to hire hundreds of employees, and they gave these employees good jobs, that gave good compensation, that had retirement, that had health insurance. And those people are all here. Those people are paying taxes. Those people are sending their kids to our schools. Those people are helping to build our communities. So I don't think there is a divide. I think that the question is how do we create sustainable jobs? How do we get people to invest in a way that benefits as many stakeholders as possible?
Q: If you win this seat, you are also going to serve people who may not have voted for you. How will you approach that?
A: As a disclosure, I don't believe in the paradigm of the two party system. I prefer to think of political beliefs as a spectrum. I think the right/left divide has sort of been the Pepsi/Coke of our generation. Unfortunately it has been weaponized to such a degree that instead of having different approaches to how to govern, we're viewing each other as enemies. It's not beneficial to either party to do that. So, in terms of partisanship, if a Republican proposes law that I think will help people, then I'll be glad to support that. And, if my own party presents legislation that is counter to my principles, I wouldn't support that. Until we start modeling a movement beyond partisanship, it's not going to help anybody. It's just going to continue to deteriorate a system that's already struggling.
Q: That's Jeremiah Liend. He is running for House District 2A. He's the DFL candidate. You can find more information at his website, liendforhouse.com. Thanks for your time today.
A: Yeah. Thanks so much. You have a great day.