MARSHALL - Claiming that current DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken hasn't addressed the serious issues during his time in office in Washington, the man who wants to replace him says his common-sense approach to government makes him the most electable candidate.
Chris Dahlberg, a St. Louis County commissioner and Iraq veteran who some consider an underdog candidate, is among four Republicans vying to challenge Franken in November. His competition is Rep. Jim Abeler, businessman Mike McFadden and state Sen. Julianne Ortman. Dahlberg's 17-city "Rolling Front Porch Tour" brought him to Marshall on Thursday morning where he said Franken has been "kind of AWOL" when it comes to issues important to Minnesotans.
"The one credit he's received by moving from being a comic to the Senate is he's put on a serious face, but what I'd argue is he hasn't addressed the serious issues," Dahlberg said.
Photo by Per Peterson
Chris Dahlberg, one of four Republicans looking to earn the right to challenge U.S. Sen. Al Franken in November, made a stop in Marshall on Thursday morning as part of his “Rolling Front Porch Tour.”
Those most pressing issues, Dahlberg said, are the nation's $17 trillion debt, President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act and government regulation. Dahlberg, who says he is for very limited government, not no government, has called Obamacare an "unmitigated disaster" and says the nation's health insurance system needs reform, namely a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
He says health care should be a state issue and that Franken has gone from being an ardent supporter of the health care mandate to sitting silent on the sidelines when it came under fire.
"Franken was responsible for that; he was the biggest cheerleader of Obamacare before, and the reason why it's troubling is on a couple of levels," Dahlberg said. "It was based somewhat off the taxes from the medical device tax, which is a direct hit on Minnesota industries. The other thing is, it's just been a disaster. We upset the cart on this. Minnesota had one of the best systems overall, and health care prices were going up and we had to do something about it, but it's not turning out the way it was meant to."
Dahlberg's so-called "Front Porch Leadership" position on government and fiscal responsibility is don't spend more than you take in. He says Congress has shown no inclination to stop spending, even as the national debt touches $17 trillion.
"I've got a 9-year-old daughter, so not only is she going to be having tuition, student loans, but right now every man, woman, child has a $55,000 debt, so she's going to be paying in the future," Dahlberg said. "We have to prioritize what we're doing, and I just don't see it in Senator Franken's DNA to make the decisions his quick reaction is more government programs. I've got some ideas how to cut that deficit."
On education, he said a one-size-fits-all umbrella-like approach doesn't work, whether it's Common Core or No Child Left Behind. Education, he says, is a state matter and decisions should be made by local districts, teachers and parents.
"I often say that I'm an equal opportunity criticizer - what I mean is that neither party should have federal control over education, that should stay at the local level," said Dahlberg. "Once you get out to Washington and put the cone of intelligence on your head and all of a sudden you know what's the best thing for Marshall? I disagree with that. I think the people of Marshall and the surrounding areas have a better idea of how their education should be run than they do in Washington, D.C."
Dahlberg, a conservative whose political base lies in the middle of DFL territory in western Duluth, is proud that he's the only candidate in the race who hails from Greater Minnesota. He said he has a deep interest in rural transportation and land use issues.
Delegates will endorse a candidate at the Republican State Convention, which will take place May 30-31. Dahlberg has said he will abide by the Republican Party endorsement.