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Ron Kind and Steve Toft debate for Congress at UWL

April Noethe Wolfred

April Noethe Wolford, Student Government Reporter

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U.S. Rep. Ron Kind and challenger Steve Toft debated Tuesday, Oct. 3 as a part of their campaigns for Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District. Topics discussed were immigration, agriculture, and the economy. 

The debate, held in the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Cleary Alumni and Friends Center, Kind described himself as a bipartisan Congressman who is “in a unique position to heal the rift” of the current political climate while Toft called out the need for politicians who are focused not on making lifelong careers but rather fulfilling their role as citizens and serving in office. 

Toft, a retired U.S. Army Col. and has never held public office, stated that he would demonstrate his commitment to ending career politicians by promising to only serve 8 years in office when he is elected. 

The Osseo native feels that his experience in the Army – specifically in running a portion of the military health system – as well as his current experience as a farmer make him qualified in facing the issues in healthcare and agriculture in our nation right now. 

Kind, who has served as a representative for the 3rd Congressional District for the last 11 terms, says that he feels he has earned the trust of his constituents by reaching across the aisle to pass legislation. According to Kind, it is this type of interaction that our nation needs right now. 

Immigration 

In response to the thousands of Central American migrants fleeing their homes for the U.S. border, Kind stated that American is a land of compassion as much as it is a land of laws. Kind also questioned whether Pres. Donald Trump was justified in sending active troops to the southern border for what he called the first time in our lives. 

Toft said that American is a nation of laws and stated that “where sovereign nations don’t have borders, chaos rules.” He cited diseases like tuberculosis as well as the amount of drugs seized at the border as examples of what he believes to be that chaos.  

Toft stated that he thinks there is room for reason in immigration laws. As a farmer, he stated that he has experience with irrational immigration policies like the H2A Temporary Agricultural Worker program which causes immigrants to leave the country for three months every three years. 

Both Kind and Toft agreed that Pres. Trump’s latest interview about attempting to end birthright citizenship through executive order is unfounded because it would require a change to the constitution. 

Agriculture 

In agriculture, both Toft and Kind recognize that farmers are playing a large impact on the environment. 

Toft, mentioning modified farming practices like no-till farming, stated that farmers are the greatest conservationists who share the same concerns about erosion and nitrate run-off as many others. He also stated that this issue should be left up to the state rather than imposing federal regulations. 

Toft stated that when elected, he will make sure that he is a member on the House Committee on Agriculture. 

Kind said that “empowering farmers to be good stewards of land” is essential. He said that farmers can count on him to be their voice, citing his close work with Representatives on the recent Farm Bill. He also stated how important it is to have clean water, explaining that it’s impossible to have healthy individuals without it. 

Healthcare 

One area where the candidates disagreed the most is healthcare. Kind stated that, while healthcare still has its issues, he stated we should “mend, not end” the Affordable Care Act. He supports a healthcare system which offers payment based more on quality rather than quantity of services.  

He also stated that we need to address our nation’s problem with the affordability of prescription drugs.  

Toft said “the Affordable Care Act is absolutely not affordable.” He said that individuals were unfairly told that they would be able to keep their providers, but that this was not true in many cases.  

The average family of four would have to pay $40,000 before insurance would begin picking up payments, Toft said. He is supportive of insurances being required to cover pre-existing conditions, revealing that his own family is subject to many of them. Another area of healthcare that he spoke about was mental health.  

In reference to the epidemic of mass shootings in the nation, Toft stated that there needs to be better coordination for mental health services, treatment plans, and law enforcement. 

Kind was also supportive of better mental health coverage and treatment. 

Economy 

The debate brought topics like the ballooning deficit and Pres. Trump’s new tariff plans. 

Toft’s ideas for cutting down the deficit were mostly related to trimming down unnecessary spending. He said that he witnessed this first-hand while serving in the military and he called for the closing of military bases that are no longer in use, stating this would save $50 billion alone.  

He also mentioned another example of this in the recent finding that the Air Force is unable to explain how it spent $1200 on coffee cups.  

Kind is also criticized the practices which have led to the overwhelming debt that the nation is in. He mentioned the tax cuts to corporations as another item to add on to the national deficit – with $2.3 trillion additional debt to be accumulated over the next 10 years because of the tax deal.  

He also stated that Trump’s tariff on steel has caused even more problems in our economy, as countries like China and Mexico responded with retaliatory tariffs of their own. China, for example, cancelled its soybean orders from American farmers. 

Trump responded to this crisis with a $12 billion bailout to farmers, but Kind finds this approach foolish. “We have to borrow $12 billion from china to redistribute to farmers because they can no longer sell to china,” he stated. “We need to find a solution sooner rather than later.” 

Toft said that the soybean crisis has worked itself out because the U.S. can still trade their soybean crops to Brazil who then trades them to China.  

Both Kind and Toft will be on the ballot Tuesday, Nov. 6 for everyone living in the La Crosse area. Voters can register at the polls or visit https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/ for more information. 

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About the Writer
April Noethe Wolford, Student Government Reporter


Year: 5th year senior
Hometown: Bloomington, WI
Major: English Education
Minor: philosophy and at-risk youth psychology
Other campus involvement:...

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    Ron Kind and Steve Toft debate for Congress at UWL