Despite Grams' longshot--the New York Times dubbed his campaign "quixotic" yesterday--the race has proved more exciting than many pundits predicted, with Grams creating mailers likening Oberstar to a Frenchman and characterizing the congressman's desire to withdraw troops from Iraq as "A Plan to Cut and Run from Islamic Terror." But fiery rhetoric aside, here's a far-from-comprehensive look at how the two candidates stand on key issues that affect the 8th Congressional District.
Jim Oberstar, Democrat (incumbent)
Energy: Supports ethanol and alternative fuel development through tax incentives. Opposed construction of new oil refineries. Voted against Bush's national energy policy. Voted for raising corporate average fuel efficiency [CAFE] standards for cars, light trucks, and SUVs. Advocates alternative technologies including biomass and windpower; introduced a bill to install photovoltaic panels on government building rooftops.
Environment: Authored the Clean Water Restoration Act, which would restore federal jurisdiction of wetlands to pre-2001 levels when the Supreme Court restricted federal oversight to “navigable waters.”
Healthcare: Supports universal health coverage. Believes Medicare Part D should be expanded so the government can negotiate lower drug prices and allow drug importation from Canada.
Immigration: Voted against the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border. Voted for the Border Tunnel Prevention Act. Opposed the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act "because it did not provide a comprehensive and realistic plan to combat illegal immigration."
Iraq War: Voted against authorizing the use of force in Iraq (October 2002), against declaring the war part of the War on Terror (June 2006), and against the Military Commissions Act. He has called for a withdrawal of US troops "at the earliest practicable point."
Social Security: Opposes privatization.
Taxes: Supports the repeal of tax cuts for people earning over $315,000 per year.
Transportation: A ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he'll likely become committee chair if re-elected. He has brought millions in federal highway money to his district, while also championing the construction of bicycle paths. If he becomes committee chair, he'll push for more funding to Amtrak and urban transit (light rail, etc.).
Rod Grams, Republican
Energy: Says he'll seek federal funds to help build the state's first poplar-based ethanol plant. Supports expansion of biodiesel production.
Environment: Opposes the Clean Water Restoration Act, saying it gives federal authorities too much power over local issues. Grams says, "Our environmental regulations are at such a high level, there is no room for jobs." He also questions whether "we are causing the so-called, 'global warming' or if it a natural occurence."
Healthcare: Supports Bush's Health Savings Account (HSAs). Opposes single-payer or government-run healthcare. Wants to allow self-employed workers or those who can’t get policies through work to be able to deduct 100% of policy costs. Supports "government vouchers to enable low income and others the opportunity to purchase the health care insurance that would best suit their needs."
Immigration: While referencing "invading" illegal immigrants, Grams supports a guest worker program. Says our borders must be "air-tight."
Iraq War: Favors sending additional troops. Links the 9/11 attacks to the Iraq War: "The front line is now in Iraq rather than on our shores." Says a withdrawal of troops amounts to a betrayal of US troops.
Taxes: Opposes the repeal of the Bush tax cuts, adding, "NO TAX INCREASE!"
Social Security: Says "all options need to be on the table including some percentage of private accounts to ensure a strong future for social security."
Other issues: While Oberstar opposes gun control and abortion, his voting record is otherwise solidly progressive: he voted against extending George W. Bush's tax cuts, opposed a proposed constitutional amendment to ban flag burning and efforts to ban embryonic stem-cell research. Oberstar opposes a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage; Grams supports such an amendment.
Also running: Unity Party candidate Harry Welty.
[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.]