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Voter guide: Angie Craig talks key issues

Angie Craig

After spending about two decades in the medical device industry, Angie Craig says she can bring a fresh perspective and expertise to the nation’s health care reform movement.

It’s a key theme of her campaign against her opponent, Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Woodbury. In an interview with RiverTown Multimedia, Craig elaborated on key platform points: investing in high speed internet in rural areas, which she says would open up health care and education opportunities, investing in career and technical skill building by including two years at a community or technical school in the public education budget, and advocating for a buy-in model for Medicare, which would allow citizens of all ages to purchase the plan.

The 2016 rematch has garnered national attention as a one of the most competitive swing districts key in determining the U.S. House’s party majority. It’s also one of the most expensive races in the state: From January 2017 through July 25 2018, Craig had raised $2,361,641.78 and Lewis had aggregated 1,953,078.50 according to FEC filings, which update each fiscal quarter.

READ MORE: Voter guide: Q and A with Rep. Jason Lewis

Before moving to Minnesota to work for St. Jude Medical, where she worked as an executive and spent six years on the company’s PAC, Craig spent most of her life in Tennessee. There, she attended the University of Memphis, where she worked as the editor of the student newspaper. She worked her way up from interning to full-time reporting at the Memphis daily, the Commercial Appeal.

“Everyone’s like, what were you like in college? And I’m like, I was so boring … As editor, there will still never be a harder job, I think, than trying to get 80 college students to do what they need to do every day to put out a college newspaper. I think that’s still the hardest job I’ll ever have,” she said with a laugh.

After working at the Commercial Appeal for a couple years, Craig switched to a communications role at a medical device company in the Memphis area, she said. After ascending to a leadership position there, she moved to Minnesota and worked for St. Jude Medical, where she worked in communications and human resources. She also served on the company’s PAC for about six years, directing it in 2011.  

“It wasn’t just my experience working in health care, it was also growing up in my own family without access to health insurance for part of my own childhood, and watching my mom struggle to pay the health care bills,” she said. “And as a result of that, I think I can add some value to get in, and to contribute some ideas on how to reduce the cost of health care in this country.”

She has requested to serve on the agriculture and education and workforce committees if elected. While these are both committees a freshman Congress member can expect to join, she said, she hopes to work on the energy and commerce committee in the future.

“That’s where health care gets done, and I think that’s where my experience translates best in,” she said.

RiverTown Multimedia has lightly edited the following Q&A for clarity and length. We’ve also added hyperlinks and additional context to key issues mentioned by candidates.

Voting closes on Election Day, Nov. 6. You can find your polling place here.

Data source: Google Trends

Google Trends data show that “health care” has been one of the most-searched political topics in recent weeks.

You mentioned in an interview with WCCO at the state fair that you would vote against a medicare-for-all bill, and that you instead would push for a buy-in plan. Could you elaborate on your reasoning for this position?

The Medicare-for-all plan … proposes that we force all Americans to move on to a government plan, and I don't support that. I believe we need to offer Americans more choice and more options … And I don't believe that Americans are ready to give up their employer sponsored health insurance they have through their company or union and move to the plan.

(With a buy-in for all age groups), you could immediately start negotiating with drug companies, just like we do with the VA, under the Medicare program. And that would save Medicare money. And it would pressure pharmaceutical companies to lower the costs of prescription drugs.

Could you elaborate on how might a buy-in option — or some of your other healthcare policy goals — impact farmers, and those who live in the rural areas of our district?

This is multifactorial. (The buy-in) gives farmers and others in the rural parts of my district who don't have access to a lot of choice in health insurance another option ...The other huge thing we need to do in rural areas is invest in infrastructure. And what does that have to do with healthcare? A lot of places in my district do not have access to high speed internet … There’s a hospital in the Twin Cities that now has a nurse practitioner down in Greater Minnesota, and you can literally come to the nurse practitioner and she can have a physician consult with you right there (via a telephone or video call) instead of having to drive all the way to the cities. So the more we invest in high speed internet, the more access to health care and education folks in smaller communities are going to have.

What other priorities do you have for the agriculture community in our district?

I’ve already requested, should I be fortunate enough to be a member of Congress, to be on the agriculture committee. The Farm Bill just expired, and so, I think providing a safety net for America’s farmers is incredibly important … The biggest thing we can do for America’s farmers is make sure they can get a fair price for the products that they are growing and make sure that they have opportunities to sell those products around the world.

I’ve seen on your social media and some of your press releases that you’ve been meeting with a lot of local businesses. What are some key concerns you are hearing from business owners, and how might your policy ideas help address these?

The thing I hear the most, honestly, is finding workers with the right skills for the jobs that they have … So I have a huge interest in and policy ideas for investing in technical education ... It’s basically, (for) two years after high school you can go get a technical degree … an associate’s degree, or two years of college (at a community college) … and it’s provided as part of your education. This also helps us tackle the student debt crisis.

Could you tell readers about your policy priorities regarding taxes?

I am a huge proponent of middle class and small business tax cuts. But that’s not what the Congressman (Lewis) just voted for. He voted for a bill that added 2 trillion dollars to the federal debt, and at the same time it gave about 80 percent of the tax breaks to large corporations and the top 1 percent. So what would I do different? I’d go back and do what we should have done in the first place. I’d give middle class and small businesses tax breaks. And Lewis is saying, oh, she wants to take away your tax break —  no, I’m tripling it for the middle class.

(Editor’s note: According to FactCheck.org, the claim that 80 percent of tax breaks go to America’s wealthiest people (“the top 1 percent”) is only true for 2027, assuming individual income tax changes expire as they are set to do so at this point.)

Students across the Congressional district participated in walkouts in support of gun control. What are your policy ideas for keeping schools safer from gun violence?

 

Park High School students protest gun violence during March 14 walkout. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia

Well, you know, I come from a family of teachers, and I’ve been talking to teachers throughout this district about the issue. They don't want to be armed. Teachers don't think more guns in schools is going to keep them safer. I support increasing investments in physical safety measures. We also need to have a serious conversation about how we keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. The two things I point to real quick are: about (90) percent of Minnesotans support background checks on all gun sales. I’m one of those Minnesotans. And then, “red flag” laws in particular, they have broad support from law enforcement, which will help police officers prevent people with a history of violent behavior, or those who have committed domestic abuse, from getting a gun. Those are two policies I believe would make a difference in gun violence prevention.

(Editor’s note: A recent Star Tribune poll found that 9 out of 10 Minnesota voters favor mandatory criminal background checks on all gun sales. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they support “stricter gun laws” in the United States. News organizations in Pennsylvania and Colorado have reported law enforcement supported “red flag” laws at the state level).

A new report from the United Nations scientific panel says with current greenhouse gas emission rates, we’ll see permanent consequences of climate change by 2040. What are your policy priorities for the environment?

Let me start by just saying, so you know where I am, there’s no denying it. Climate change is happening. The data are clear, and I’m not going to tell the world’s top scientists that they’re wrong. They're telling us that they are correct. I just say two or three things. One, I think we either adapt and we start to move ourselves to renewable energy, that emits less carbon, or, countries like China and India are going to lead this new technological advancement. I think it’s really important that we invest in policies that promote and support renewable energy. And finally, I think we need to look for other common sense initiatives, like instituting a fee and dividend program, which would reduce our nation's reliance on fossil fuels. The Citizens’ Climate Lobby is an organization that supports this program. It’s revenue neutral, so it won't have an impact on the debt or the deficit. And then other market based approaches. I was particularly pleased with this new indication that the (Trump) Administration is going to move E-15 sales of ethanol year round, that came out just last week. I think those kinds of initiatives are how we address the issues raised in the UN report.

What are your plans for staying in touch with your constituents?

I’ve committed to one public town hall per month … And I can tell you, when big issues come up in this country, I’m not running to represent democrats or republicans. I’m running to represent all Minnesotans. When you get your health care bill every month, it doesn't have a D or an R beside it. And I think that’s what we’ve gotta do in this country, people who really want to work together to solve problems.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the state where Angie Craig grew up.

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