Candidates face off Nov. 7
Kind seeks 6th term. He urges transfer of power in Iraq, promotes energy independence
In the past 10 years, Ron Kind has learned that a willingness to listen and the ability to identify shared interests, despite party affiliations, are among the skills that make a good congressman.
"Democracy is a lot of hard work. That's what I've learned," said Kind, 43, during an interview last week. "It requires a lot of listening."
Kind, a Democrat from La Crosse, has represented Wisconsin's Third District in the U.S. House of Representatives since he was first elected in 1996.
"I think we need much more listening in Washington across party lines," he said. He believes an emphasis on one-party control blocks progress.
That's why he has helped organize the Upper Mississippi River Congressional Caucus and is active in the Rural Health and the Congressional Sportsmen's caucuses.
Working with colleagues from both parties in these committees, away from the "super-charged atmosphere" of Washington politics, encourages cooperation, said Kind.
"You get to know your colleagues better that way."
War on terrorism
Kind suggests doubling the size of Special Forces to destroy Osama bin Laden and terrorist networks like al Qaeda.
He is and has been critical of President Bush's stay-the-course policy in Iraq.
The arguments for keeping troops in that country indefinitely are "falling more and more on deaf ears," said Kind. Even Republicans are standing up and questioning the advisability of maintaining troops in Iraq rather than requiring the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own country, he said.
The United States needs to hand over power more quickly, said Kind, who hopes the process will move ahead after the elections.
Kind first visited Iraq in the fall of 2003.
"I walked away with the conviction we had a very small window of opportunity," he said. He hasn't changed his mind.
This past Sept. 11 Kind lunched with troops who had recently returned from Iraq. One of them commented on the numbers of soldiers lost to death and injury while working to maintain supply lines to the forward troops.
"That doesn't make any sense," said Kind of losing soldiers who aren't in actual combat.
Many Iraqis are resisting occupation by foreign troops, but, "They've got to figure out what kind of country they want to create," said Kind.
He suggested enlisting the League of Arab States to provide security and support as Iraq moves ahead. Other Arab countries have a huge interest in what happens to Iraq and are also concerned about the spread of Iran's influence, he said.
Kind referred to an argument by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that the U.S. can promote reform in the Middle East by reducing the demand for foreign oil.
Friedman says when oil prices drop, movements toward reform advance.
When they're raking in high oil profits, "the (Middle East) regimes just consolidate their power and no reform takes place," said Kind.
Muslim countries have the world's youngest populations. In Iraq, said Kind, the average age is 18 and in Iran it's 17.8.
Without economic reform, young people living in squalid conditions have no hope or opportunity to be successful either through education or employment, he said.
"It's no wonder they're being radicalized and used against us," said Kind.
"What's happening in the region now can't be solved by our military," he said, urging a different kind of assistance.
While pulling out American resources might be unwise, it does matter "what type of money, where it goes and who controls it," said Kind.
Because the money the U.S. spends on foreign oil is often used against us, it would be wise to break our addiction to those fuels and begin investing in people, said Kind.
He suggested partnering with the European Union to promote educational reform in Middle Eastern countries.
As an example of how that can work, he cited a program in Mozambique where a $5 school entry fee was dropped and 500,000 new students enrolled.
The problem of illegal immigrants is more complicated than it might sound, said Kind. "It's not as simple as securing our borders -- which we have to do."
He said it's not as easy as directing local law enforcement to identify illegal immigrants, round them up and ship them out.
First local agencies don't have the resources to do that and secondly, "Forty per cent of undocumented workers (originally) came into this country legally," said Kind.
"I don't care how high you want to make the fences or walls, we're going to have immigrants."
Reducing the country's dependence on foreign fuels is crucial for national security, the economy and the environment, says Kind.
Last week he met with students on the UW-River Falls campus to discuss his "Greenest Generation Challenge."
Kind is encouraging students on Third District college campuses to compete to against one to "be more creative in (your) thinking when it comes to energy issues."
While he challenges students to come up with their own plans for conserving fuel, Kind asks them to embrace such basic habits as turning off lights and when they're not needed.
He said it is incumbent upon the United States to lead the way in conserving energy and fighting pollution. He suggests increasing mandates for using bio-fuels and a renewed commitment to research and development of clean energy sources.
For more information about Kind's campaign, go to www.kindforcongress.org.
Nelson says he knows what district residents want, value
Paul Nelson says his local roots, Marine Corps experience, family support, faith in God, business success and community involvement make him the right candidate to serve Wisconsin's Third District in Congress.
Nelson, a real estate agent, said his job has given him a clear understanding of the values and needs of families in western Wisconsin.
"It's kind of a special job in that we get to work in people's homes," he said.
Sitting around kitchen or dining room tables visiting with clients has given him a great feel for the things that are important to people in western Wisconsin -- including faith, family and responsibility, he said.
There's "an incredible disconnect" between Washington, D.C., and western Wisconsin, said Nelson. He believes citizens here deserve a representative who understands their values, including an adherence to a definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
"The fact that children are best raised in a family with a mom and dad is inarguable, and we should aim for that," said Nelson, who supports a federal marriage amendment.
Religious beliefs aside, natural law shows that "the ideal is a mom and a dad," he said.
Another value, said Nelson, is financial responsibility.
He said the federal government has been allowed to spend and spend and spend without regard for taxpayers' ability.
"Not only is the national debt astronomically high, but the federal deficit will soon be unmanageable if we don't act quickly to control spending," said Nelson
The national debt has reached the point where it amounts to over $28,000 for every man, woman and child. And that, said Nelson, is often more than the net worth of those individuals.
"It just doesn't seem to matter," said Nelson of the way most lawmakers view the debt. "But somebody needs to talk about responsibility -- about the shamefully wasteful way we spend money."
He suggests a freeze on the national budget until the deficit is eliminated.
Washington is the only place where a program or agency can get millions of dollars more than it did the previous year and still "people are running around talking about the terrible cuts," said Nelson.
"They haven't lost anything," said Nelson. They just haven't gotten all they asked for.
He suggests departments be told to "whack to a balance of zero" and justify the budget they had last year.
"Everybody else in the world has to do it," he said. "Somehow Washington is resisting."
Energy independence is critical, said Nelson. He suggests increasing domestic drilling and refining capacity, increasing the use of bio-fuels and a greater use on a "new generation of safe, clean, efficient nuclear power plants."
He is concerned about the potential danger of storing nuclear waste at hundreds of places without necessary security and about the country's failure to develop centralized storage sites.
"The option that we cannot do is to do nothing," said Nelson.
He said the country must build a nuclear storage facility large enough to hold wastes that will be produced in years to come. That's not as big as it sounds because the new plants produce far less waste than earlier generations of nuclear plants, said Nelson.
"It isn't that we have to turn an entire state into a nuclear waste dump."
"We cannot argue that the war on terrorism does not exist," said Nelson, insisting that "political correctness" only muddies the water. Islamic fascism is as dangerous as Nazi fascism, he said.
He suggests fighting terrorism by reducing United States dependence on foreign oil because most assuredly the money we spend on foreign fuel is used to arm terrorists.
He links illegal immigration to the war on terrorism.
"While our brave men and women in the armed forces fight to defend freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan, our own nation is being overrun by illegal aliens," said Nelson. Apart from the economic toll, the country's open borders are "a friendly invitation to terrorists," said Nelson.
He suggests greater effort to prevent illegal crossing of the Mexican border.
"There are urban areas that need to be fenced and rural areas that need to be patrolled," said Nelson. "We are the United States of America. We can secure these borders."
He believes the U.S. must double the number of border patrol agents by 2009. He also suggests $100,000 fines and three-month jail sentences for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
War in Iraq
"Pulling out is a disastrous idea," said Nelson of the war in Iraq. He hopes that doesn't happen soon.
"I think the important thing is to listen to our commanders on the ground," he said.
"Clearly the American public is tiring of this a little bit," Nelson of the war. But, he said, nearly 3,000 soldiers died on Omaha Beach and we don't look back on that as a failure.
"We needed to do what is needed to be done to remove the enemy," said Nelson.
"War is a nasty business," he said. "Certainly there are mistakes that will be made."
But, he said, it's wrong to second guess military leaders.
He said his military background "certainly gives me an empathy with the troops."
While he was never in combat, Nelson said he knows what it's like to be hot, uncomfortable and lonely.
And, he said, "I feel like I lost a brother every time I hear about a casualty."