Craig Visit

Angie Craig, left, the Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, speaks with Hideaway owner Joan Spaulding in Northfield Sept. 18. (Philip Weyhe/Northfield News)

Angie Craig never really stopped campaigning.

Since Election Day 2016, when the Eagan Democrat lost the 2nd District congressional race to Republican Jason Lewis by 1.8 percent of the vote, Craig said she’s put thousands of miles on her car meeting people around the district.

From high health care costs and low commodity prices in the district’s rural south to infrastructure demands in places like Elko New Market and Prior Lake, the needs remain the same, Craig said.

“These issues didn’t go away — none of them did,” she said in a late-August interview with the newspaper’s editors. “I believe that voters are ready for change. I think they’re growing weary of the chaos in our country, and they’re looking for true representation that’s going to listen and focus on the things that matter most to them.”

Health care access is a top concern for Craig, who said her struggling Arkansas family was often without health insurance when she was growing up. Craig went on to a 22-year career in the health care industry, becoming vice president for corporate relations of St. Paul-based St. Jude Medical. She later worked as head of human relations for the device-maker’s 16,000 employees worldwide.

First, the federal government should stop trying to undermine components of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, Craig said.

The American Health Care Act — a repeal attempt that passed in the House of Representatives with Lewis’ vote but stalled in the Senate — would have gutted guaranteed coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, Craig said. Half of non-elderly 2nd District residents have pre-existing conditions, she said.

The bill would have allowed states to opt out of parts of Obamacare, including a provision requiring insurers to provide a minimum set of health benefits in their plans. Craig opposes what Lewis favors — allowing insurers to offer less expensive catastrophic plans.

“When you implement the opportunity for people to buy these high-risk plans, which frankly have never worked — I call them ‘junk plans’ — you are taking young, healthy people out of the risk pool in the individual marketplace,” Craig said.

She called for a permanent federal reinsurance program to help insurers contain premium increases.

“If you’re going to have a competitive marketplace, insurers have to know that their losses are capped,” Craig said. “That was part of ACA in the beginning, but of course that was dwindled away.”

And Craig called for a “buy-in” option allowing more people access to Medicare.

“If we implemented a Medicare buy-in, that would double the number of insurance choices for some people in my congressional district,” Craig said. “And I just think we’re going to have to say to the big health insurance companies, ‘We’re going to provide you some competition here.’ ”

Lewis has accused Craig of shifting positions on government-run health care. Craig said she emphatically opposes Medicare for all, or single-payer government health care.

“I simply don’t believe that we could implement a single plan across this country effectively, and I believe it would limit the amount of choice for many Americans and Minnesotans in a way that, frankly, we couldn’t do it,” she said. “I’m not going to support something that I don’t know how we’re going to pay for.”

She also called for drug price fixes, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate pricing with pharmaceutical companies and limiting companies’ ability to “buy off” generic drugmakers to stay out of the market.

Craig lambasted the GOP-passed Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, which Lewis is touting in his campaign. She alleges — Lewis disagrees — that the measure will add $2 trillion to the national debt and gives 83 percent of its benefits to “large corporations” and “very wealthy people.”

When major tax legislation was passed in the 1980s, “My family was living in a mobile home park, and I promise you that nothing trickled down to us, and I can also promise you that very little is going to trickle down to Americans with this particular tax bill that favors very large corporations and the super-wealthy,” she said.

The bill’s middle-class cuts are temporary and should have been made permanent; instead, the corporate cuts were made permanent, Craig said.

She said she favors tax relief for repatriation of foreign earnings by American companies as the law provides, but only if the savings are then invested in capital expenses, hiring or research and development.

“We let them bring it back for nothing,” Craig said. “We left opportunity on the table in this tax bill.”

Overall, the cuts won’t produce sustainably high GDP growth, Craig predicted. Part of the 4.2 percent second-quarter growth was companies “stuffing the channel” with exports in anticipation of President Trump’s tariffs, she said.

“The war we’ve waged using tariffs is exactly the wrong approach,” Craig said of the president’s campaign to rebalance America’s trade with other countries. “It takes years, sometimes decades, to get these agreements to sell your products in these countries. And right now, even the uncertainty created by the threat of a tariff is causing many countries to source their products in other places, like Brazil. And it will be a long time before we get that business back.”

For 2nd District farmers, five years of low commodities prices and a trade war on top are bad news, Craig said.

She accuses congressional Republicans of politicizing immigration and endorsed a bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill that passed in 2013 but died in the House.

“I certainly support comprehensive immigration reform, and I oppose separating families,” Craig said. “To me, that is a huge moral issue, and certainly one that this administration has completely mishandled.”

She called for enhancing border security through measures such as drones, radar and sonar.

“To me, if you build a 30-foot wall, you’re going to build a market for 32-foot ladders,” Craig said. “That’s the least efficient way to protect our borders.”

Craig’s son, Josh, one of her four sons with wife Cheryl Greene, has criticized Lewis for questioning during his days as a radio talk-show host whether same-sex partnerships make for good parenting.

Craig said she’s offended by Lewis’ words but more offended by his votes to “gut” protections for pre-existing conditions and cut taxes on large corporations and the wealthy.

John Gessner can be reached at john.gessner@ecm-inc.com or 952-846-2031.

Reach Regional Managing Editor Suzanne Rook at 507-333-3134. Follow her on Twitter @rooksuzy

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