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U.S. Senate: GOP candidate Ortman returns to Bemidji

Zach Kayser

BEMIDJI — Republican Julianne Ortman stopped by the Bemidji Public Library Saturday morning for a meet-and-greet with local voters.

Ortman, one of several GOP candidates seeking the party’s endorsement in the race against U.S. Senator Al Franken, is conducting a campaign tour of northwest Minnesota.

About 10 people came to the library’s meeting room to see Ortman, who was accompanied by her husband Ray.

Ortman, a state senator from Chanhassen, brought up her participation in the 2011 state government shutdown as evidence of her principles.

“It took a principled person to stand up against the governor — all of us, really — in a statewide shutdown of our government...the longest statewide shutdown in national history,” she said. “We stood for a very important principle: that when government lives within its means, we all do better.”

Ortman said that through the process of the U.S. Senate confirming or denying appointments to key positions in government organizations, it has the power to limit the actions of the executive branch, which she said was “acting outside the scope of its legal authority.”

“There’s great authority in our United States Senate when they act as a peer group for the president rather than as a subordinate group,” she said. “It’s not President Obama that’s in charge of our nation… we have some very important documents that say it’s ‘We the People’ that are in charge, and there is no higher office holder in the nation.”

After her remarks, she took questions and comments from attendees. One person was in favor of eliminating the U.S. Federal Reserve and wanted to know Ortman’s position on the issue.

“Clearly, they do need to be audited,” Ortman responded. “It seems like they have unchecked power that needs to be checked again.”

Ortman later said she first started following news on the national economy during the 2008 economic crisis and the federal bailout of major lending institutions.

“I was pretty frustrated to watch the federal government use our taxpayer dollars to bail out those private risk investments,” she recalled. “The government really shouldn’t be in the business of guaranteeing someone’s investment like that, a private investment.”

In response to a question on the coal industry, Ortman said she supported opening the controversial PolyMet copper-nickel mine near Babbitt.

“All those folks who would be employed at PolyMet mining, what a disgrace that we can’t get through the permitting process,” she said. “That is not government’s role, to stop progress.”

Besides policy positions, the meeting’s attendees were also curious about the Ortman campaign’s strategy.

“How are you going to reach all these uninformed voters?” asked one. “They know more about Dancing (with) the Stars and all this other junk… they don’t know what’s going on.”

Ortman responded by saying younger voters would be on her side come election day

“I think the younger voters — the 18 to 24-year-olds who didn’t vote for Al (Franken) the last time — are going to watch this race a lot more closely,” she said. “Eighteen to 24 year-olds, they aren’t the beneficiaries of all this big government programming, they are the targets.”

One person was concerned that Minnesota’s senate race didn’t seem to be competitive based on media reports, but Ortman assured him that Franken “is vulnerable”.

“Minnesota is in play,” she said, pointing out that Franken won in 2008 by a narrow margin. “There were a lot of people very discouraged by what happened in the last election.”

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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