Editor's Note: 5th District Patches recently asked readers to . This week, we are running the candidates' answers to some of the best questions we received. Today, we're featuring Part One of our interview with Fields. Part Two will run tomorrow. Our interview with Ellison will run on Wednesday and Thursday
Lauren asks: Do you plan to vote yes or no on the voter ID amendment? Why or why not?
Fields: I plan to vote yes. It’s just common sense. There’s nothing I’ve read that suggests that people can’t vote. If you don’t have the proper photo ID that day, it’s a provisional ballot. In some of these races that are lopsided, that provisional ballot will never come into play. So you’re not disenfranchising anyone—they still get an opportunity to vote. And if it does turn out to be a Norm Coleman-type race, you can go back and say, "Hey, please count my ballot because now I can validate my address." ... What disturbs me is some of the rhetoric coming from the other side, saying this is a poll tax. No it’s not. That’s completely disingenuous, to say the least. We’re not telling folks they can’t vote. We’re not putting up a barrier between them and their right to vote. We just want to make sure that the integrity of our electoral system is sound.
Donna Moss asks: Congress recently voted to keep the interest rates of federal subsidized Stafford loans frozen at 3.4 percent for the next year, at which point rates will return to their original 6.8 percent unless further action is taken. Mr. Fields, given your professed interest in "improving the quality of education at all levels" (as your website states) and in narrowing the achievement gap, how would you propose to make higher education more accessible to middle- and lower-class students?
Fields: The Stafford Loan Program has nothing to do with the achievement gap. When you talk about the achievement gap, you’re talking about K-12. So that’s a separate question. In regard to federal funding for college, the Stafford Loan program, I think we need to reexamine how that looks in the future. If it’s frozen for three years, that’s plenty of time to reexamine how it looks. Ultimately, I want to see—and you’ll hear this over and over again in my answers—more state control. That’s just who I am. I believe that gives us more flexibility, and it allows us to tailor solutions for us, regionally and locally. As Minnesotans, we know who needs help. And we know how to best provide it for them. If you send it to Washington, it’s one-size fit all, and that fits no one.
Seth Engman asks: Is it ever appropriate to characterize your opponent or those who disagree with you as "anti-American?"
Fields: If they look at that piece, it’s “anti-America.” Is it appropriate? You do have to call it what it is. What I would say is, Keith has promoted an agenda that is completely against everything we stand for. Specifically what I addressed is his lack of funding for the Iraqi War. I was there. I know what a lack of funds does. If that helicopter should be up in the air, and troops are potentially getting in harm’s way, that helicopter isn’t in the air because that part isn’t there. I’m sorry, but you do not make your political point with someone else’s blood. So yeah, if there’s a situation like that, I will call it out. Americans don’t stand for that.
Robert Hemphill asks: What specific choices would you make (i.e. who would you raise taxes on, what programs would you cut) in order to balance the budget?
Fields: You have to take a look at them all, and we’re in the process of doing that ... I think the threshold should be, “What can the states do better themselves?” There are certainly some (areas in which) state and local people will make better decisions for themselves. I’m OK with putting the pressure on the state legislature and the governor to come up with a solution. If you want to look at the Affordable Care Act, it’s a big effort, but it didn’t really satisfy the need of every individual. Nothing ever coming out of Washington (does). So, how do you get more individuals protected? You turn to the state legislatures and governors and say, “You need to come up with a plan.” ... I’d be OK with Minnesota saying, “We’re going to have universal health coverage here.” … It would be a better quality than the federal government could provide. As far as raising taxes, I read in the Star Tribune, Keith has a quote that says, “We do not have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem.” Nobody agrees with that. There needs to be some restraint in government spending.
Christian U asks: Can you tell us how you plan to vote and why you are voting that way on the issue of the Minnesota marriage amendment?
Fields: I believe that’s a vote of conscience. I have good friends on both sides of the aisle, so I made a conscious decision to just not be part of that discussion. I think people need to go behind the voting booth and vote their conscience on that issue. They don’t need me bumping my gums about that issue. That is something that goes to people’s deepest held convictions, and I have to respect that on both sides.
Mitch Mueller asks: The last several years have witnessed a gradual erosion of religious freedom. What will you do to protect our First Amendment right to religion and religious expression?
Fields: I think you have to start with the policies that are coming out of Washington. I don’t want to pick on the Affordable Care Act, but as an example, making religious institutions provide birth control pills when its completely against what they stand for is wrong. Why do we have a federal government put itself in a situation like this? We have to be tolerant and respectful of everyone’s religion. Not just some, but everyone’s. In America, we put that on a high pedestal. We have to be very careful that we’re not trampling over people.
Spirit Medicine asks: There are some who are concerned with the continual growth in the powers claimed by the executive branch of the United States—expansions of authority not isolated to the current administration. What, if anything, are some things that the executive branch under the U.S. Constitution should never be allowed to do?
Fields: Usurp the powers of Congress. And more specifically, I don’t think the executive branch gets to pick and choose which laws they’re going to enforce. We’re looking at the president as a chief law enforcement officer. I think presidents throughout the course of our history have made decisions not to follow that.