Campaign trail still bumpy, but a little different

Last November I wrote about a conversation I had with Dr. Noel Collis of Hutchinson. The good doctor came calling to talk about his campaign for the Minnesota 7th Congressional District seat now held by Democrat Collin Peterson. Collis returned a week ago for another visit. Before he arrived, I reviewed the column I wrote back in November on the Republican candidate. I found the last line of the column humorous: “Buckle up, it’s going to be a long and bumpy road to Election Day.”

Of course, I had no idea a virus pandemic was on the horizon and it would affect just about everything in our daily lives — including politics.

The general election is four months away and “bumpy” fits the political narrative. The virus has kept President Donald Trump mostly in the White House. He held his first public rally since the pandemic started just a few weeks ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I believe it didn’t turn out as well as he had envisioned.

Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, has been campaigning from his basement. Live campaigning has been limited to a few public appearances for both presidential candidates.

And campaigning is no different in the 7th District race as the Aug. 11 primary approaches. Michelle Fischbach is the Republican favorite to win as she has the backing of the Minnesota Republican Party and President Donald Trump. Like her opponents in the race, Fischbach has been unable to do the traditional summer campaign activities such as community festivals. However, she did make a visit to Marshall a month ago. She told Independent reporter Deb Gau she has been doing a lot of phone calling and holding smaller meetings.

Collis told me he is well aware Fischbach is the Republican favorite, but he stressed the clear-cut difference between the two Trump supporters.

“It depends on what people want,” he said. “If they want a career politician that’s been in office 22 or 30 years, they can take Collin Peterson or Michelle Fischbach. If they want something that is beholden and bought and paid for by the Washington establishment they can choose her. I would say if you want someone who will stand up for the people of this district, than I’m their guy.”

One thing that has not changed since November is the status of health care as one of the main issues for voters. It was front and center in November and still is today. In November, the Medicare-for-all debate was raging. And a few weeks ago, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act. If successful, that could wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans as the nation navigates through a pandemic.

“What people don’t stop and think about often enough is that the individual mandate was forcing people to buy health care from major corporations who’s executives make millions of dollars a year and these corporations were exempt form the anti-kickback statues in federal law. They took billions of dollars out of the system and denied care for patients,” Collis told me last November.

On his last visit, Collis attacked Democrats for falsely claiming Republicans will take away coverage for pre-existing conditions. He said that’s not true when it comes to Minnesota. “The Minnesota comprehensive bill of 1978 and Minnesota Care in 1992 both made coverage of pre-existing conditions in Minnesota mandatory as part of law,” he said.

As far as COVID-19, Collis charges that politicians haven’t followed science on what really should be shut down. The end result is an overreaction that has been costly.

“We were told this was a big deal. This could be devastating. We are going to need respirators. We are going to need masks. I was listening to an infectious disease guy who said, ‘wearing a mask is like putting a barb wire fence around your house to keep mosquitoes out of the yard,’ “ he said. “I think we need to look at risks and benefits like we do in medicine. And I don’t think the risk of the infection that will only kill one in 200 justifies putting 700,000 people at risk for hunger.”

And that’s a doctor speaking — but pretty much the Republican stance when it comes to the pandemic.

So back on the “bumpy road” to the ballot box we go with health care definitely on the minds of voters.

And our conversation ended with the doctor reminding me he wasn’t wearing his Reagan shirt this time. He was referring to sentence in my column.

“And it was health care that was on my mind when Dr. Collis arrived at the Independent office Wednesday wearing a USS Ronald Reagan fleece to talk about his campaign bid,” I wrote.

“It put a smile on my face,” he said.

And of course he hopes to be smiling on Aug. 11.


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