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Senjem addresses Beltrami County Republican fundraiser

Republican legislative leaders bashed Democrat health care reform, and a local GOP slate for House offices firmed up Saturday night during a Beltrami County Republican fundraiser.

Republican legislative leaders bashed Democrat health care reform, and a local GOP slate for House offices firmed up Saturday night during a Beltrami County Republican fundraiser.

"People want free-market medicine," said Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, "to have choices, to have the ability to go to Rochester, the Twin Cities, Fargo, Duluth, Grand Rapids, Bemidji's got fine facilities."

Health reforms considered by the DFL-controlled Senate include a program in which doctors would seek certification to work closely with chronic disease suffers, who account for 75 percent of health care spending. In change, they would be paid more.

A statewide public health plan would be made, targeting obesity, chemical dependency and tobacco use. It would be funded through a surcharge on non-profit hospitals and health plans.

"We don't need people directed, in terms of where they get their care," Senjem said. "This particular package will simply do that."

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He was joined by Assistant House Minority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, who accused seniors citizens of lobbying hard for "socialized medicine."

Dean, who serves on a House health care finance panel, said that he had "talked to a group of senior citizens and they absolutely do want socialized medicine in Minnesota. They will not be satisfied until everyone is on a government program, and they will not be satisfied until there is a bureaucrat in between you and your doctor."

He said he told the seniors that right now there's an insurance broker between them and their doctor. "The last thing you want to do is put a politician between you and your doctor, and that's exactly what's going to happen."

About 120 Republicans gathered Saturday night at the Hampton Inn & Suites to sample soups, breads and desserts as part of a contest for the best of each. They also heard from Senjem and Dean, and from others on the Nov. 4 ballot or would like to be.

Former Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, has been reorganizing the Crow Wing Republicans and is recruiting candidates for legislative races. She introduced candidates for Bemidji area races at the fundraiser.

She singled out as candidates this fall Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, for re-election to House 4B, Tony Williams of Bemidji as candidate for House 4A, and former Rep. Doug Lindgren, R-Bagley, to seek another run at the House 2B seat.

Senjem and Dean were also out shopping recruits, and came to Bemidji after attending a Clearwater County Republican affair in Bagley Saturday afternoon.

On health care, Senjem singled out Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, as going the wrong way. "In this particular district, and I'm not going to pick on her a lot, the individual who represents this district was clearly on the Senate floor last week, part of a coalition of people that were involved in the single-payer idea."

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Single payer is where all medical providers from doctors to hospitals would bill a single fund, similar to Medicare or health programs in Canada and Britain. The payer could be a government or an insurance company.

"I don't think that represents the views of anybody in this room, anybody downtown or at the college, anybody across the lake over here," Senjem said, "I just don't think that's true."

The Democrat health care package "will literally dismantle health care in Minnesota," he said. "Health care in Minnesota isn't so bad. We probably have some of the finest health care in the absolute world, and there's no question about that."

Senjem said that 6 percent or 7 percent of the Minnesota population are uninsured, "but to meet that 6 or 7 percent, in terms of an obligation, we're looking at tearing apart everything we have.

He called it "socialized medicine -- take this into the government as much as you can." Citing the federal government's downfall in responding to Hurricane Katrina, Senjem said a single-payer health system -- "A Katrina-style medicine simply doesn't work."

Have you every seen the government do anything particularly well at all? ,,, The free market can take care of medicine just actively just fine."

Dean said Minnesota doesn't need a single-payer system such as in Canada. "We don't need Canadian-style medicine -- In Ontario, Canada, the average wait time for an MRI is 120 days, the average wait time for breast surgery is 90 days. That's something we don't want to see here in Minnesota."

Dean also attacked Democrats on their campaign pledge in 2006 to be fiscally conservative, which hardly lasted into the session as Democrats tried to pass $5 billion in new taxes, and got a $6 billion transportation funding package into law over Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto.

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"So you think you folks will notice an 8½-cent gas tax increase up here?" Dean asked. "The biggest area in which we differ with the Democrats, quite frankly, is on the size of government, on the scale of government, and on taxes."

Democrats think they can raise taxes and grow government and that life will become better, Dean said, asking the group if anyone doesn't think they don't pay enough in taxes.

While campaigning on fiscal conservatism, Democrats once in office advocated for an 800 percent increase on the tax on beer, an increase on funeral surcharges, on hearses and on the "death tax."

"They want to increase your taxes -- the sick tax before you die, the estate tax when you die, the first tax on the way to the funeral, and then on the casket itself when they get you in the ground," Dean said.

Howes is expected to have stiff opposition this year from former Duluth City Councilor Meg Bye who has moved into the district, with Howes the only Republican House member in northern Minnesota aside from Morrie Lanning in Moorhead.

Williams is making his first stab at politics, and hopes to turn back two-term Assistant House Majority Leader Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, while Lindgren hopes to take back the seat he lost in 2004 to Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids.

Ruud first introduced the Rev. David Myers of Bemidji as a House 4A candidate, but he formally withdrew from the race Saturday night to throw his support to Williams. Myers said he filed his campaign in December when it became apparent no Republican would step forward to face Moe.

"I'm doing that because here is a young man who is absolutely on fire to serve," Myers said. "This is a young man, who I believe, can actually beat Frank Moe. I don't know if I could have done that."

Williams outlined his campaign as one of morals, morals that categorize northern Minnesota.

"Being from the Bemidji-Cass Lake area has given me a strong sense of community with the people of this district," he said. "It's also shown me that people of northern Minnesota have strong moral values.

"We are the party that supports morality," Williams added. "We are the party that supports building strong, positive family values. We are the party that supports protecting life at all stages. We are the party that protects and defends the Constitution and the rights of all people in this country."

Parents should raise their children, not the state, he said. Republicans also believe people should take responsibility for their actions and that all are created equal in the eyes of God.

Lindgren, as well as several others, said Republicans need to get out the message of their platform, that the current DFL platform is not the agenda of their parents and grandparents.

Lindgren said while campaigning in 2006, he tried to sway a woman in Alida, but she said she was voting Democrat because "FDR saved the farm," and her parents voted for FDR.

"I believe that the people in our district, no matter what they say they believe in, in their hearts they're conservatives," Lindgren said. He said he showed her the DFL platform and asked if she supported abortion and gays, which she said no.

But she was still voting Democrat because "FDR saved the farm." Lindgren said she might be saving the farm, but boy, you're selling it out now."

Beltrami County GOP Chairwoman Kath Molitor insisted that Beltrami County is basically conservative. "We need to let the people born and raised here realize these are not the Democrats their grandparents voted for. The ideals Democrats had 50 years ago are not today's."

The group also watched a video of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the presumptive GOP nominee for president, and heard from Melissa Roberts, a staff member of U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., about his re-election campaign efforts.

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