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Erik Burgess, Published July 24 2012

Minnesota business, Fargo-Moorhead diversion major topics at candidate forum

MOORHEAD – Keep Minnesota competitive and flood-free was the prevailing message of a town forum held here for county and state government primary candidates Tuesday night.

Candidates for the upcoming Aug. 14 primary held varying beliefs on a range of topics, but keeping up with North Dakota business was a shared belief by nearly all those who spoke at the forum.

“We certainly are not as competitive as the people across the river,” said Ken Lucier of Moorhead, who is running for state representative in District 4A.

The Fargo-Moorhead diversion project was also discussed with fervor, as county candidates argued what was best for rural communities.

“I’ve always honestly been against the diversion,” said Traci Goble, the former mayor of Georgetown, who is running for the Clay County Commission. “I think there’s gotta be another answer out there.”

Other topics such as the Minnesota Voter ID Amendment and the recent shooting at “The Dark Knight Rises” premiere in Colorado were discussed.

More than 50 residents attended the event at the Hjemkomst Center.

Minnesota House of Representatives District 4A

How communities in District 4A can stay competitive was a hot topic among the state representative candidates here Tuesday night.

“That is probably the issue when it comes to Moorhead and Oakport businesses,” Ben Lien said of sharing the border with North Dakota.

Many of the candidates discussed bringing back the homestead tax credit, which reduces the general property tax for certain property that is occupied as a person’s primary place of residence.

“The tax environment for individuals and homeowners needs to be made better as well (as businesses),” Lucier said.

However, Sue Wiger on the DFL ticket argued that North Dakota is not in competition with Minnesota.

“Let’s not consider Fargo competition,” she said. “Let’s consider them a partner.”

She suggested reaching out to those involved with the downtown renaissance in Fargo to ask for assistance in keeping business lively in Moorhead and the rest of 4A.

The Minnesota marriage amendment and voter ID amendment were also part of the forum.

Many candidates, however, agreed that the marriage and voter ID issues were distracting from larger issues, like tax issues and business development.

“Oh, my God, this is what we’re spending time on? I don’t get it,” Wiger said. “I think we have bigger issues in Minnesota.”

Lien also voiced dissent toward the amendments.

The other candidates – specifically Benjamin Larson, Travis Reimche and Lucier – voiced support for the voter ID amendment.

“I believe it will enhance the sanctity of the vote here in Minnesota,” Lucier said.

All of those running were present at the forum.

Clay County Commission

The Fargo-Moorhead diversion project was perhaps the hottest topic of the night for the Clay County Commission candidates, with responses running the gamut of complete support to absolute dissent for the project.

Goble said the diversion was unneeded, and she didn’t want rural homes to be washed away due to flood mitigation efforts, especially after it occurred in Georgetown when she was mayor.

Frank Gross, former Dilworth council member, said the project is necessary.

“What’s a better plan – make it stop raining? For lack of a better plan, we’re going to have to go with this,” he said.

The diversion is crucial for protecting important infrastructure in the bigger cities, said Greg Anderson, former chairman of Oakport Township.

“It’s easy to hate Fargo because they’re the big city,” Anderson said. “But I know if I’m having a heart attack I’d rather go to the hospital in Fargo than the hospital inside of my district, District 3, because there isn’t one.”

District 3 Incumbent Jon Evert called the diversion the most difficult project he’s worked with in his 18 years as commissioner.

Five candidates for districts 2 and 3 were on hand at the Hjemkomst Center on Tuesday evening, including Goble, Gross and Parke for District 2, and Anderson and Evert for District 3.

Spaces were reserved for Jay Buchfink and John Young Jr., both of District 2, but they were not in attendance.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518