The League of Women Voters of Park Rapids Area (LWV) and the Park Rapids Enterprise teamed up Sept. 19 to help Hubbard County voters get to know local candidates.

Invitations were sent to Republican and DFL contenders for state legislative, county, city, school board and Hubbard County Soil & Water Conservation seats.

A video of the forum is on the LWV’s blog: http://lwvparkrapidsarea.blogspot.com/2020/09/video-from-candidate-round-up-in.html

The LWV is a non-partisan, political advocacy group, which encourages voter participation and promotes increased understanding of major public policy issues.

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Each candidate was allotted up to 10 minutes at the microphone to introduce himself or herself and address two or three issues relevant to the race.

DFL-endorsed Alan Roy of rural Ogema is challenging Republican incumbent Paul Utke for Senate District 2. Utke was unable to attend the forum. Roy, the current White Earth secretary-treasurer, said he is running on a number of issues, like the economy and healthcare disparities.

“We need to make sure healthcare is affordable and accessible,” he said.

A father of three, Roy said education is also a priority with him. An Army veteran and currently serving in the reserves, Roy said, in order to be successful, teachers and school districts need adequate resources.

DFLer Jeremiah Liend of Turtle River is running against Republican Matthew Grossell of Clearbrook for House District 2A. Grossell did not attend the forum.

Liend’s main platforms are environmental sustainability, electoral reforms, removing corporate interests from elections, ranked-choice voting and social justice reforms.

Liend advocates for “an impartial, nonpartisan body” to draw district lines in a logical manner. During this health criss, “we need to make sure every Minnesotan has health insurance,” said the father of three, noting that he lost his health insurance one month into the pandemic when the insurance company quadrupled the premium.

DFL candidate David Suby of rural Detroit Lakes, a business owner of 43 years, is challenging Republican incumbent Steve Green of Fosston for House District 2B. Green did not attend the forum.

Suby said that “the state legislature should set clear guidelines for redistricting. If it is unable to come to a redistricting agreement, the Minnesota Supreme Court can follow the prepared guidelines.”

Stabilizing funding and “consistent state guidance” for public education are other issues, Suby said.

Both Hubbard County commissioners up for reelection this year – Char Christenson (District 2) and Dan Stacey (District 4) – are running unopposed. They mentioned Vacation Rental By Owner regulations, the 2020 U.S. Census, and likely cuts in state aid funding due to COVID-19 as major issues in the county.

Christenson noted that the county designated $1.9 million to the COVID-19 Business Assistance Program, which gives out $20,000 emergency grants to area businesses affected by the pandemic.

Park Rapids City Council members Bob Wills and Liz Stone, also in uncontested races, discussed issues that will impact the community in 2021.

Wills acknowledged the “overwhelming problems” that COVID-19 has created for people and businesses. “I believe that if we follow good health and distancing practices 2021 can be better than what we have now,” he said.

To encourage more visitors, Wills suggested more signage and landscaping within the city. “I would encourage stores and restaurants to be open in the evening. The success of 2nd Street Stage illustrates this nicely.”

Stone, who has served for four years on the council, said she “wants to assist with making Park Rapids a great place to live and raise a family.”

To make Park Rapids more welcoming and inclusive, Stone said it’s important to reach out and gather input from area residents “and encourage them to participate in city-related functions and events.”

Stone said the city is experiencing unforeseen expenses due to COVID-19. “I think it’s important to keep businesses open and thriving during these uncertain times,” she said.

Cliff Tweedale spoke in favor of the Park Rapids School District’s proposed bond referendum.