ROCHESTER, Minn. - Candidates vying to represent Rochester in the Minnesota House of Representatives squared off during a local forum Tuesday night.
In a virtual discussion streaming on the Rochester Public Library's Facebook page, the candidates running for seats in districts 26A and 26B were pressed on issues ranging from election security to gun control.
Incumbent Tina Liebling of district 26A and challenger Gary Melin expressed vastly divergent views on how the State of Minnesota has responded to COVID-19.
"What I do think is a problem is that the wearing of masks, and just following these rules, has been so politicized that many people don't do it," said Representative Liebling.
Candidate Gary Melin responded to the question by comparing coronavirus deaths and abortions, while saying officials should not be referring to COVID-19 as a pandemic.
"We have more people that died from the flu," Melin said. "We have 21 million people in this United States of America that have died since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 called abortion."
In the race for district 26B, candidate Randy Brock echoed concerns about the politicization of mask wearing, but expressed broad approval of how Governor Walz has responded to the pandemic.
"The number comparatively in Minnesota is pretty low," Brock said. "The number of cases compared to, right now, cases per million in South Dakota is much higher, Iowa has been higher now."
Incumbent Nels Pierson had a much more critical view of Governor Walz's response.
"Where I think we've made some errors - I think the governor's commissioner should be held under scrutiny for why we released COVID patients into nursing homes," Pierson responded.
With early voting underway, Rochester residents can now cast their vote for any of these candidates before November 3rd.