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Dave Olson, Published November 02 2012

Three vie for Minnesota 7th District House seat

MOORHEAD – The race for Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District seat pits 11-term incumbent Collin Peterson, a Democrat, against Republican challenger Lee Byberg and Independence Party candidate Adam Steele.

Peterson and Byberg faced off two years ago when Peterson won the election with about 55 percent of the vote to Byberg’s 38 percent.

This time around, Byberg has vowed to reduce the size of a government he said is bankrupt and a trillion dollars off when it comes to revenues and spending.

Steele said he is running for one reason: to see to it the U.S. Constitution is upheld in Minnesota. He’s also shining a spotlight on a court case involving an Itasca County man Steele says was wrongfully imprisoned for a domestic assault that never happened.

Peterson said his main purpose in running is to get a new farm bill passed, something that has not been possible in a polarized Congress.

He said his goal is to get a farm bill done by December. If that doesn’t happen, he said he will focus on the task until it is done, “however long that takes.”

After the farm bill, Peterson said his priority is solving the budget problem, something he said will require compromise and taking flak from both Democratic and Republican hardliners.

“I’m sure I will (take flak). I already have,” Peterson said, adding that when he is approached by people asking what they can do to make Congress more responsive, he tells them this:

“Don’t vote for anybody that is going to vote for the party line, in either party.

“Try to find people that are going to go there and do what needs to be done for the country, whether they get re-elected or not,” he said. “That’s what we need – people that are going to suck it up and do what we have to do.”

Byberg said he is focused on growing the economy and restoring the nation,

“People have a strong feeling something is wrong but don’t have the time to figure how off it is,” he said.

“When I look at the federal government today, it’s a trillion dollars off, mismatch between revenues and expenditures.

“We have leaders from both parties that equally have contributed to that,” he said, adding: “To me, this isn’t about winning a congressional race. There’s nothing in it for me to be just another politician.”

Byberg said the United States has arrived at a tipping point, “where it’s going to take a different kind of leadership that will bring Democrats and Republicans together and not try to compromise on something that’s bad, but find solutions that are good.”

Byberg’s prescription for fixing things: “a combination of growing the economy, eliminating waste and targeting specific agencies that should not be there. Period.

“The EPA, I would love to cut it 50 percent,” he said. “The Department of Energy, I would eliminate it,” Byberg said, stating the country is no more energy secure today than it was in 1977, when Jimmy Carter created the Department of Energy by consolidating a number of energy-related federal agencies into one.

Steele said that while he feels the economy is in chaos and U.S. foreign policy is a mess, he thinks the country should be paying more attention to “a much larger issue that concerns us all – upholding the U.S. constitution here in Minnesota. That is my campaign in a nutshell.”

So what power does a congressman have to affect change in a Minnesota criminal case?

“If Minnesota cannot uphold the U.S. Constitution and its justice system, then it has to be expelled from the union. That’s a requirement of being a state,” Steele said.

House members serve two-year terms and are paid a salary of $174,000.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555