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Election 2016: 7th Congressional District candidate profiles

7th Congressional District incumbent Sean Duffy, a Republican, will be challenged by Democrat Mary Hoeft in the Nov. 8 Fall General Election. (Submitted photos)

With the 2016 Fall Election slated for Tuesday, Nov. 8, we here at the New Richmond News are providing profiles of the candidates running for office.

See other candidate profiles by following these links: The 29th Assembly District here (View candidate forum here); and the St. Croix County District attorney's race (View forum here); the U.S. Senate raceand the 28th Assembly District here ...

Today we focus on the candidates running for the 7th Congressional District. 

Republican Sean Duffy is the incumbent. He is being challenged by Democrat Mary Hoeft.

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Sean DuffySean Duffy

Age: 45

Address: Wausau

Occupation: U.S. House of Representatives from WI 7th district

Education: Marketing degree from St. Mary’s University, and a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law

Family: Wife, Rachel; 5 daughters and 3 sons

Q. Much has been written about the “living wage” issue. Do you support an increase in the federal minimum wage? Why or why not?

A. Right now, hardworking students, parents and families are being crushed by the Obama economy. His presidency is the first in history to not have a year with at least 3 percent growth. Wisconsinites deserve better policy than what they’re getting from the far-left agenda they’re getting from the Obama Administration. Wisconsinites deserve a way up in a vibrant economy. That’s why I’m fighting for policies that will grow the economy, remove red tape, and encourage business to return to the United States. That way, employers will be able to hire more people, and lower-wage jobs can be a launching point to a better career, not a destination.

Q. Historically, Western Wisconsin has had an agriculture-driven economy. With commodity prices at rock bottom and the number of family farms shrinking, what specific measures would you take in Congress to ensure family farms remain viable and profitable?

A. Agriculture is critical to our economy and a significant part of our history. Wisconsin farmers are spending too much of their time with compliance and expenses that aren’t going to their production. Reducing and streamlining regulation on our farms is imperative. They should be able to work, produce and hire without regulations from Washington getting in the way. Wisconsin farmers can compete with anyone on earth. That’s why we must make sure that they have an opportunity to sell their goods to markets all over the world. I am working my heart out to ensure that those markets expand, and that they play by the rules so that Wisconsin farmers get the fair shot they deserve to compete. I’m also fighting to update the federal crop insurance program to include more of Wisconsin’s products.

Q. Health care continues to be a hot button issue for residents of the district. In light of our aging population, what role do you think the government should have in providing healthcare to its citizens — and what changes, if any, would you make to such programs?

A. Washington-based mandates like Obamacare have made healthcare more expensive and harder to access for millions of Americans. In order to make healthcare more accessible and more affordable for people of all ages, I’m fighting for legislation that would put medical decisions where it belongs: between patients and their doctors, and fighting for a system that requires doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to compete with each other so consumers get the best price and service.

Q. What is your stance on the proposal for low-cost or no-cost measures for a college education?

A. As a father of eight, you can be sure that the skyrocketing cost of college education greatly concerns me. We need to make financial aid easier to access to those who need it. More transparency in higher education would also substantially lower costs. Where does the money go? How much of it is spent on classroom costs versus how much is spent on administrators, increased bureaucracies, and superfluous expenses like fitness centers and amenities that are turning colleges into country clubs. If colleges had to be upfront with how they were spending money — or how much money they have sitting in endowments — students and parents would be demanding that they reprioritize their budgets to make tuition more affordable. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. We need to demand more financial transparency from our colleges and universities In order to ensure that every student who wants to go to college can afford it.

Q. There are thousands of veterans who live in the 7th Congressional District. Are you satisfied with funding for veterans programs? What, if anything, would you change?

A. It’s our most solemn responsibility as a nation to keep the promises that were made to our veterans, and right now, the VA system is not keeping those promises. Long wait lines, irresponsible doctors, and a built-in system that covers up its mistakes and punishes the whistleblowers who want to speak out about a shamefully broken system. That’s why I helped expose the massive Tomah VA scandal. We must also improve care — which is why I voted for the VA Choice program, which allows veterans to have timely access to care in their community if the VA isn’t fulfilling their promise. And I’m proud that my legislation to help veterans avoid government red tape and receive better access to hearing health care has passed the House.

Q. Should we be concerned about climate change? If so, what will you do to address the issue? If not, please tell us why.

A. Many of us live in Wisconsin because we love the outdoors — whether it’s skiing, fishing, hunting, boating or camping. That’s why I serve on the Great Lakes Task Force, fighting to preserve and protect our beautiful Great Lakes. In Wisconsin, we want to preserve our environment. We need policies that advance that cause in a common sense way that will not kill jobs and drive up the cost of energy for those who are struggling to pay their bills.

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Mary HoeftMary Hoeft

Age: 67

Address: 735 Burr Oak Place, Rice Lake, WI 54868

Occupation: Professor of Communication Arts/French at UW-Barron County in Rice Lake (retired on Aug. 9 following primary victory)

Education: BS from UW-Oshkosh in Speech, Master of Arts in Teaching from UW-Eau Claire, Diploma in French Studies from the University of Poitiers and additional graduate studies at the UW-Madison.

Family: Daughter Kelly is a police officer in Madison and son Ryan, who was also an officer, died in service to the people of St. Louis Park, Minn.

Q. Much has been written about the “living wage” issues. Do you support an increase in the federal minimum wage? Why or why not?

A. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is a guaranteed poverty wage. The men and women of our district work 40 hours or more a week and take home a check so small that it isn’t enough to support their family. Solution? They have to work two jobs. Loving parents are caught in a trap where they are unable to spend time with their children because they are working 60 or more hours a week. It is time for us to support a living wage — one that is phased in over a three-year period. Federal subsidies should be provided to owners of small businesses to ensure that the increase in wages does not negatively impact their business. At the end of three years, depending upon the impact of the increase in minimum wage, the subsidies would either remain or be removed.

Q. Historically, Western Wisconsin has had an agriculture-driven economy. With commodity prices at rock bottom and the number of family farms shrinking, what specific measures would you take in Congress to ensure family farms remain viable and profitable?

A. I spoke to a dairy farmer last week who had just returned from Washington where he and other dairy farmers visited each of our representatives in Congress, asking for relief. There are more dairy farms in our district than in any other district in the country. We are losing two farms a day. Farmers need our help. The young dairy farmer told me that my opponent expressed his inability to help farmers because his committee responsibilities are in the financial sector. When elected to Congress, my responsibility will be to serve all people in my district. The specific request of these farmers was for federal legislation dealing with supply management. I am scheduled to meet with farmers in our district to discuss the best solutions to the problems they face. Farmers know that I will work with them to arrive at the best legislation to address their needs.

Q. Health care continues to be a hot button issue for residents of the district. In light of our aging population, what role do you think the government should have in providing health care to its citizens — and what changes, if any, would you make to such programs?

A. As I travel throughout the district, people share with me their fears about health care. One woman said she had had two winning battles with cancer while she was employed and had insurance. When she lost her job, she was unable to afford insurance in the marketplace. She fears her cancer will return and she will not be able to afford treatment. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 20 million people are insured who previously were not. But, for many, that insurance remains unaffordable. My opponent’s solution is to scrap the Affordable Care Act. He offers no viable alternative health care plan for the 20 million people who would suddenly find themselves uninsured. Big insurance companies are in health care to make a huge profit. Health care in America should not only be for those who can “afford to pay.” Health care should be a available and affordable for all. A single payer plan will make insurance available to all at an affordable cost. That is the plan I support.

Q. What is your stance on the proposal for low-cost or no-cost measures for a college education?

A. There was a time when a high school degree offered our sons and daughters the promise of a good job in manufacturing. A man or woman could work hard at that job and earn a good income — good enough to support his/her family. But, with tax incentives supported by my opponent, company owners have terminated the jobs of more than five million employees and sent their work overseas. When elected, I will sponsor legislation to end those tax incentives and bring jobs back to America. Without the promise of a good job in manufacturing, we need to prepare our sons and daughters for the work world they are about to enter. We must include two years of technical school or community college (in Wisconsin UW colleges) as the final two years of public education. Rather than a K-12 public school, we must support a K-14 public school.

Q. There are thousands of veterans who live in the 7th Congressional District. Are you satisfied with funding for veterans programs? What, if anything, would you change?

A. Our veterans have put their lives on the line for us. Many have returned with the deep scars of war. We must give them our full support. Why then was the most comprehensive health care plan for veterans defeated by Republicans in 2014? Why was more than $670 million cut from veterans health care last year? Veterans Service Officers tell me that vets are sleeping on the streets and are in need of homeless shelters. One vet told me he drives his friend, a vet with traumatic brain injury, more than three hours each way to the Veterans Hospital in Tomah for his friend to “pee in a cup.” We must make sure our veterans have the best health care available. I will make Enhanced Veterans Health care a top priority.

Q. Should we be concerned about climate change? If so, what will you do to address the issue? If not, please tell us why.

A. My opponent sides with 3 to 5 percent of climate scientists globally who say humans are not responsible for the weather change we are experiencing. I think I know why he has turned his back on science. The Koch Brothers, who support him, own companies that spew 24 million tons of carbon into the air you and I breath each year. It is real and it poses a threat. I support a plan called carbon fee and dividends. I urge all readers to study that plan. It will reduce carbon emissions and provide the greatest financial dividends to seniors and those who can least afford to pay exorbitant heat bills.

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