Social Security and immigration focal points for U.S. Congress - District 4

This year’s matchup for the Fourth Congressional District seat features three candidates from major parties. The district covers all of Ramsey County. The candidates running for federal office were asked about their positions on the future of Social Security and Medicare, immigration reform, and what their legislative initiatives and priorities are.

Betty McCollum

Betty McCollum
Sharna Wahlgren
Sharna Wahlgren
Dave Thomas
Dave Thomas

Betty McCollum

Betty McCollum, DFL, is running as an incumbent. She’s held the Fourth District seat since 2001, and prior to that was a Minnesota state representative and a City Council member in North St. Paul.

McCollum, 60, of St. Paul, graduated from St. Catherine University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and education. She is divorced.

McCollum says she believes Social Security and Medicare are essential programs for seniors, people with disabilities, and workers in general. She says the programs need to be strengthened “to ensure full benefits are paid to all future beneficiaries.”

On immigration reform, she notes that the U.S. Senate passed an immigration reform bill in 2013 with bipartisan support. She says that bill addresses border security as well as legal issues regarding undocumented persons. But the bill hasn’t been brought before the House, McCollum says, because House Republican leaders refuse to allow it to come to a vote.

To McCollum, House Republicans are “choosing instead to exploit the issue for political gain” by keeping the bill away from a vote.

McCollum says her foremost legislative priority is addressing the threat of the terrorist expansion of ISIL in Syria and Iraq. She says she supports airstrikes against ISIL, saying Congress should “immediately authorize any sustained use of force with strict limits on U.S. ground forces.”

“The jihadist recruits and fighters flowing uncontrolled into Syria from Turkey must be stopped,” she says, adding that until the unrest there is contained she doesn’t support the U.S. arming and training Syrian rebel fighters.

Sharna Wahlgren

Sharna Wahlgren, Republican, is 46 and lives in Maplewood. She graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School with a law degree. Wahlgren is married.

Prior to running for office, she worked full-time as a partner at the law firm Leonard, Street and Deinard, which is now merged with another firm and is known as Stinson Leonard Street. She left the position to run for office, she said.

Wahlgren says she’d like to see Medicare and Social Security “get on a sustainable path.” For Wahlgren, that would include bringing down healthcare costs for Medicare and improving service.

Overall, she says, the current system rewards inefficiency and uncecessary spending.

She says Social Security could be strengthened by boosting the U.S. economy, since the program’s ability to pay retirees depends on revenue from current workers.

On immigration reform, she says the U.S. needs secure borders, and criticized the current Congress, saying members “should stop fighting and start working to solve this problem.”

She says the U.S. needs to disincentivize illegal border crossing, and suggests the economy could be strengthened by creating paths for legal immigration.

Her legislative priorities would include improving the economy, balancing the federal budget, and paying down federal debt.

She says Congress should “undo unnecessary, expensive regulations and make it less expensive for companies to repatriate money and invest here.”

She also would prioritize improving higher education and push to make it “geared toward actual job opportunities.”

Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas, a member of the Independence Party, is 33 and lives in Falcon Heights.

He graduated from Concordia University with a bachelor’s degree in middle and high school education for social studies.

Thomas is married and works full-time as a special education teaching assistant at Brimhall Elementary School in Roseville. He is also an on-call firefighter with the Falcon Heights Fire Department.

Thomas suggests Social Security and Medicare issues can be resolved by taxing corporations appropriately.

To address immigration reform, he says companies caught hiring illegal workers should be charged “20 percent of gross profits per illegal hired.”

“We don’t punish people for being victims of abuse, we punish the abusers,” he explains.

Thomas said his legislative priorities would include the removal of the federal government from the student loan process, adding tuition free universities, doing student loan forgiveness, and legalizing marijuana for medical, personal and industrial uses. He also listed improving veteran’s assistance programs, implementing ranked choice voting, and defunding the National Security Agency.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.



Election 2014

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