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GOP candidate Westrom talks Obamacare, guns, Keystone in Bemidji

BEMIDJI -- Endorsed GOP candidate for U.S. Congress Torrey Westrom on Tuesday visited Bemidji for an interview with the Pioneer. The House hopeful talked about Obamacare, the Keystone XL pipeline, guns and immigration.

Westrom was campaigning in the northern reaches of Minnesota's Seventh Congressional District, where the state senator from Elbow Lake aims to unseat Democrat Collin Peterson.

Westrom called for repealing and replacing Obamacare. Although Peterson initially voted against the law in 2010, Westrom said Peterson "flipped" in subsequently voting against its repeal.

"He's voted to keep it the law of the land since," Westrom said. "That's the difference between him and me."

Westrom said he had been following the crisis of unaccompanied Central American child migrants coming to the U.S., which took a Minnesota twist recently when U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., proposed housing some of the children in the state. When asked if the state should house the children, Westrom explained what he thought the larger issue at hand is.

"I think probably the bigger policy is, we need to send these children back to their parents," he said. "I think we need to take efforts to enforce the borders, stop the huge surge and reunite those children with their parents and families."

Democrats are to blame for the delay in constructing the Keystone XL oil pipeline, adversely affecting Minnesota, Westrom claimed. If the pipeline is constructed, it would help alleviate supply shortages caused by oil traffic on railroads, he said.

"That is burdening our state because of the rail car shortage," he said. "Farmers can't get their grain hauled to market nearly as cost-effective as they used too. They can't even get railroad cars to haul propane in."

Westrom is a proponent of gun rights, and said the Second Amendment granting the right to bear arms is just as important as the First Amendment, which grants the right to free speech (among others).

However, when asked if there were any federal gun regulations he took issue with, he said he isn't pushing for any major changes.

"Right now I'm not advocating for... significant modifications to what we've got," he said. "We've got lots of laws on the books. (We) certainly should enforce the ones we have before we start pushing for more, and I would not be a supporter of more gun control that's being pushed by the Democratic Party."

Westrom said he "cut his teeth" on politics as a young adult pursuing a bachelor's degree in political science at BSU. He helped reinvigorate the College Republicans following a decline in activity with the group, he said. Westrom later obtained his J.D. from William Mitchell College of Law.

He lost his eyesight in a farm-related auto accident as a teenager.

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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