By Jeremy Griffith
The American Millennium Online
Congressman Tim Walz-D, CD1 of Minnesota, looking dapper and hip in blue jeans, brown leather shoes, button-down shirt and blue blazer, met with constituents in a rare town hall meeting on Thursday in the Rochester Community and Technical College’s Charles E. Hill Theater.
It was rare because Walz, who won back his seat in the House of Representatives by the narrowest of margins last election cycle, rarely meets with the regular public, only donors. But this was different and the glib and professional looking Walz helped himself greatly in the effort.
There were a lot of issues discussed at the town hall, which was packed to standing room only at the edges where Walz made a brief statement in the beginning before answering questions from the audience non-stop for two and half hours. The subject matter of the town hall ranged widely from the disputed fate of the failing Affordable Health Care Act, to National Security and Immigration. But there was one big take away.
Walz will not rule out a run for the Governorship of Minnesota.
A lady in the crowd asked the Congressman if he would run, eliciting his response. Many of the crowd showed their opposition of such a move, preferring him to remain in his current position. Still, there was a lot of applause as well when the Congressman said he would not rule it out. That applause may be indicative that a win for Walz in a governor’s race is at least possible.
Governor Mark Dayton, the incumbent, will be through with his latest term in two years and is not expected to run again. Dayton has been struggling with cancer and had a scary moment at his latest State of the State address when he passed out briefly at the end of his speech.
Running for Governor instead of his old seat in the congress may be a good move for Walz considering the slim victory he had over Republican challenger Jim Hagedorn the last time. Hagedorn is an able campaigner and has run against the incumbent twice before. With the unpopularity of the ACA and Walz’s liberal stances in a largely conservative district, three times might be the charm for Hagedorn. Conversely, Walz might make a much better showing in the statewide race especially factoring in blue areas including the Twin Cities Metro area, Rochester, Duluth and the Iron Range areas.
While Walz has said he won’t rule out such a campaign, he has not acknowledged a desire to run and it isn’t a sure thing. We’ll just have to see.
Meanwhile, in the two and a half hours Walz spoke to constituents, several things became clear:
1. There is a lot of concern about ACA and medical coverage in general and the ACA has failed to meet the expectations of the voters in meeting its promises of lowering costs, increasing coverage, and increasing or maintaining choice. Indeed the opposite is true for many, which the congressman freely acknowledged.
2. People are concerned about immigration, especially of refugees from areas of concern named in the travel ban enacted by the Trump administration and challenged in the courts. Walz acknowledged those fears saying that national security concerns are a real issue, but stopped short thereafter, saying that it was wrong to demonize an entire sector of people, namely Muslims, who worship differently and have different cultural practices.
3. Walz would like the public to believe that health care is a journey and not a destination. He says he would like to see an ACA fix rather than an out and out repeal. Indeed he joked about a repeal and replace that came back on November 9, after an election cycle where it can do little damage to politicians struggling to win in elections, a common tactic used several times by the Obama administration. Many don’t think this is a terribly funny joke as their health care insurance provided in part by their employers have been cancelled and not replaced. Many others feel tied to their jobs when other opportunities avail themselves, because the coverage at a new employer may not be as good as what they have in their current job. Still many others have not gotten insurance, despite tax penaties, because they are healthy and don’t have jobs that will allow them to afford the coverage and high deductibles.
4. People are concerned about their privacy considering the knowledge that the government has the technology to spy on their telephonic conversations and internet usage. One attendee commented to the congressman that while privacy is important, the idea that a sitting National Security Advisor having his private phone conversations listened to and recorded shows the nation’s enemies what our capabilities are. NS Advisor Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was recently allowed to resign his new post after it became clear that he was having phone conversations with Russia prior to the election.
One question that seemed to take the discussion on a completely different tangent was the concern of one attendee who was against the so-called militarization of police forces. He son was on the local police force and was a current member of a SWAT or tactical team. Walz allowed that seeing officers in heavy gear and uparmored vehicles created a tension between cops and the community, but also said he favored legislation that provided equipment for local officers to be well protected in the execution of their very dangerous and hazardous duties of protecting the public.
In Walz’s appearance Thursday, he seemed to be very adept at playing both sides against the middle. Nothing he said in the meeting seemed to be outrageously right or left. If you’re a national security guy, you might be lead to believe that Walz is as worried as you. But then he denounces efforts by the Trump administration in carrying out his duties as commander in chief by temporarily banning refugees from Muslim minority countries of concern also black listed under the Obama administration. If you were for the ACA, you might believe that Walz is for improving it and are worried that Republicans will throw it in the trash. If you thing the ACA is a failure, you might get a sense that Walz is actually for a fix that might actually just be repeal and replace.
In essence, Walz was soft on specifics when it came to individual policy decisions that he would support or oppose, only indicating that he didn’t want to “diminish anyone’s concerns”.
When asked if he supported the continued federal funding of abortion provider Planned Parenthood, for example, Walz simply said “yes” and left it at that. There was no discussion of how Walz felt about the realization that P&P was actually selling the body parts of aborted fetuses for profit to medical research companies and whether or not he felt that practices was wrong and the practitioners prosecuted.
If you were looking for a kill stroke that showed Walz as a radical leftist as his voting record seems to indicate, you didn’t see it in this public appearance. What you did see is the slow acknowledgement that the Obama administration’s chief accomplishment, the ACA, is not living up to expectations and desperately needs to be fixed, repealed or replaced. Walz’s support of the law is likely the chief reason he nearly lost the last election round and why he should probably seek another office where his chances are better.
Watch a video of highlights of the town hall meeting below.