Area state legislative candidates discussed constitutional amendments, frac sand and southeast Minnesota’s future at a Wednesday forum hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters at Winona City Hall.
Matt Schmit, a Red Wing public policy consultant, is challenging Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, and former Lewiston-Altura superintendent Bruce Montplaisir is running against Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa.
Candidates diverged sharply on the proposed marriage and voter ID constitutional amendments. Drazkowski and Howe both voted to send both amendments to voters this November. “All the marriage amendment does is ensure that current state law, the defense of marriage act in Minnesota, is written into the constitution to protect it going into the future,” Drazkowski said.
Howe said he voted for both amendments to give constituents a chance to vote on the issue themselves.
“I think voter integrity is probably one of the biggest issues we have in this election,” Howe said.
Montplaisir said he believes such proposals should be handled at the Legislature, rather than by constitutional amendment. Schmit said he opposes both amendments. “I think we’re dividing Minnesotans unnecessarily over this issue, and we’re spending a lot of money to do so,” Schmit said.
Candidates also weighed in on the region’s growing frac sand mining industry. Howe and Montplaisir both said they advocate for local control, with Howe reminding attendees that he has called for a statewide intensive environmental review that would halt all new operations in order to further study the industry.
Drazkowski said he supports frac sand mining.
“I would work to encourage the job growth that this mining industry has a potential to bring to this area,” Drazkowski said.
Schmit said he thinks state agencies need to provide more information and conduct more research to aid local municipalities.
The League of Women Voters will host two additional public forums prior to the Nov 6. election — Oct. 16, for Senate District 28 and House District 28A, and Oct. 24 for Winona County Soil and Water District Supervisor positions.