Battle intensifying for open seat in swing district


Angie Craig

Jason Lewis

Paula Overby

2nd Congressional District

In one of the most closely watched U.S. House elections in the nation, Democrat Angie Craig, Republican Jason Lewis and Independence Party candidate Paula Overby are battling to fill Rep. John Kline's 2nd Congressional District seat. 
Kline, a Burnsville Republican, is retiring from the House, which leaves a rare open seat in a swing district. Spending on the race could approach $3 million as Democrats attempt to flip the seat that Kline has occupied since 2003.
The 2nd Congressional District includes all of Dakota, Scott, Goodhue and Wabasha counties, the southern tip of Washington County (Cottage Grove) and a portion of Rice County.
The Review asked the three candidates what skills and experiences they think they'd bring to the U.S. House of Representatives, what they think are the top challenges facing Minnesota and the nation, and what issues or projects they'd prioritize if elected. They answered via email. 

Angie Craig, 44, is a former executive at St. Jude Medical and the DFL Party-endorsed candidate. She was vice president of global human resources and corporate relations at the medical device company before stepping down in 2015 to run for Congress.
She lives in Eagan with her wife Cheryl Greene and has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Memphis.  
Under her leadership at St. Jude, Craig said collaborations with Minnesota schools were implemented to ensure students graduated with the skills they needed for good-paying jobs. "I also set strategy for the Veterans Hiring Program, focused on mentoring veterans throughout the industry." 
Asked about the top challenges facing Minnesota, Craig responded that the state has a large population of seniors who rely on federal programs for a secure retirement, and said she would push "to protect Social Security, strengthen Medicare, and lower prescription drug costs." 
She added 66 percent of Minnesota manufacturing employers reported struggling to find workers with the needed skills for available jobs. She said the nation needs to provide incentives for public-private partnerships, to bridge that gap and grow the economy. 
She also noted Minnesota college graduates have the fifth-highest level of student debt in the nation and said a college education must be made affordable for every family. 
If elected, she said one of her priorities would be addressing the student loan debt crisis "by allowing people with student debt to refinance their loans and strengthening Pell Grants.
"The private sector should be part of the solution, too. We're seeing large companies offer a new perk: loan reimbursements." 
 
Jason Lewis, 61, was already a familiar name to many folks before he received the Republican Party endorsement.
Lewis, who lives in Woodbury with his wife Leigh, had a long career as a radio talk show host and conservative political commentator in the Twin Cities before retiring in 2014. 
He has a master's degree in political science from the University of Colorado, and before entering radio he ran a small family-owned business.
He said his experience in private business and "as a nationally syndicated broadcaster and author analyzing the most complex of public policy issues -- uniquely prepares me to serve in the U.S. Congress."
Lewis said he talked to radio listeners "for the better part of two decades" about the problems the nation faces. "So I understand the economic pressures that families are still facing in this very subpar recovery which has yet to hit 3 percent growth -- a post WWII low."
He described the tax code as too complicated and in need of an overhaul. "And as someone who's been purchasing private insurance for my family I am keenly aware of the devastating effects that Obamacare [has] on family finances and job creation." 
Lewis said he has a jobs plan that seeks to "create real growth not through government directed crony-capitalism, but by restoring capital investment and incentives in the private economy so that everyone can prosper through a rising tide of economic activity."   
If elected, he said his priorities would be health care issues, reforming entitlement programs, making across the board budget cuts to all federal programs to rein in "big government spending," and "controlling our borders and putting a moratorium on dangerous refugee admissions." 

Paula Overby, 62, lives in Eagan, and is the Independence Party-endorsed candidate. 
Overby earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota in psychology and computer science. Her first career was as a case manager providing community-based mental health. 
She said as a trained advocate and sexual health community educator, she has significant experience helping people struggling with some of the nation's major social issues -- mental health, drug use and health care. 
But she said her primary career was spent as a systems analyst, and one of her responsibilities was finding and implementing cost-effective solutions.
Through her job experiences, Overby said she learned "the best solutions are made at the lowest possible level. I support local initiatives and representation that properly reflects the diversity of our culture."
Regarding challenges facing the U.S., Overby said running government like a business "is trampling the economic and social vitality of this nation" and has "resulted in a loss of quality jobs to the benefit of very few wealthy investors. It is creating major cost issues in housing, health care and education." 
In Congress, she said she would work to "improve the affordability of these essential services, restore public and private investment in growth strategies and retain capital in our local communities." 
She added, "The best solutions happen at the community level not in Washington, D.C." She pledged to have her Congressional office "completely accessible" to citizens so their "experiences and ideas can help frame public policy in the U.S. House of Representatives." 

Election Day is Nov. 8. To find your polling place, visit http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

Mary Lee Hagert can be reached at mlhagert@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7820.

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