There has not been a Republican serving in Congress from Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District for 50 years. Indeed, the district is considered one of the country’s top Democratic strongholds.
Still, that has not deterred three people from chasing the GOP endorsement to run against incumbent Rep. Keith Ellison, who will be seeking his fourth term in congress in the 2012 election.
The Fifth District encompasses all of Minneapolis and includes all, or parts of, cities such as St. Louis Park, Richfield, Hopkins and Golden Valley.
Between 75 and 100 people attended a debate between the three Republican candidates held Tuesday evening at the Uptown VFW on 29th Street and Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis
Hosted by radio talk show host Bob Davis, the three candidates—, Michael Katch and —spent nearly 90 minutes trying to differentiate themselves from each other and assaulting either Ellison, the government, or both.
Torgerson accused Ellison of being a “radical Muslim,” .
She alleged Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, is a fundraiser for the Council on American Islamic Relations, which she called "a terrorist support group which advocates replacing the U.S. Constitution with Islamic Sharia law.”
Ellison has denied he holds that view, and in a written statement issued by his re-election campaign on Wednesday afternoon, said Torgerson attacked him "simply because of my faith."
Chris Fields, who up until recently was a U.S. Marine Corps officer, emphasized his belief that “America is not a country in decline, but we need sound and effective leadership in Congress.”
“People need to be self-sufficient and not relaying on the government,” he added.
All three agreed that government is "too big and too ineffective."
“I am in favor of eliminating several federal government departments such as education, commerce and the EPA,” said Katch, echoing a favorite talking point of Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry. “I think once they were gone, people wouldn’t even notice or miss them.
When a question from the audience asked if the three would support the party platform and the person who gets the nomination, Katch said yes to both. However, Torgerson and Fields never really answered the question. Torgerson used the opportunity as an opening to question whether Fields is really a Libertarian.
“I am a Republican,” Fields shot back.
Torgerson, who calls herself pro-life and pro-Israel, asked both of the other two candidates to show their opposition to abortion by advocating and pushing for legal restrictions on the practice.
All three also criticized the size of the federal government and the deficit.
“Within the next 10 years, government needs to be smaller and spending dramatically less,” Katch said. “We need to invest in the individual.”
Torgerson didn’t advocate any specific elimination of departments, but instead said she wants what amounts to across-the-board cuts in the federal budget.
“The federal budget is full of special interest, lobbyist and pork barrel spending,” added Fields. “If elected, I would confront Congress to address these issues.
“I will be my own man," he said. "As a freshmen representative I would not be going to Washington just to carry John Boehner’s (the House speaker) golf bags.”