WAYZATA — Candidates seeking to represent House 33A in the state Legislature had an opportunity to tell voters where they stand on state budgets, education, gun laws, health care, housing and environmental issues at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at Wayzata City Hall — but only one took advantage of it.
Wayzata resident Norrie Thomas, a DFLer challenging to represent the cities of Independence, Long Lake, Medina, Minnetrista, Wayzata and Orono, laid out her priorities Tuesday night.
Incumbent Republican Rep. Jerry Hertaus of Greenfield wrote a note that was hand delivered by Wayzata Mayor Ken Willcox shortly before the event stating he would not be there, according to Patty Robles, the voter service chairperson for the Wayzata-Plymouth area League of Women Voters. She said the league had received no prior notification he would not be there and said the league wants all candidates to participate and represent themselves to the voters.
Thomas, a former pharmacist and business leader who has lived in Wayzata the past 10 years, said her priorities are health care and education.
“What we have here is a health care crisis,” Thomas said in her opening statement.
Thomas said she is supportive of expanding Medicare, the federal insurance program that covers all seniors, but noted that is more of a federal decision.
At the state level, she believes in expanding Medicaid, the federal-state partnership insurance program for low-income and disabled people. For both Medicaid and Medicare, Thomas said she supports a public-option, where people can buy into the programs to get better, more affordable options.
Thomas said she believes women should not have barriers to reproductive health care.
“I believe that women have the right to have access to reproductive education, reproductive counseling, and need to be unburdened with polices and procedures that limit their abilities to make decisions,” Thomas said.
Asked by moderator Deb Brinkman how the state can keep prescription drugs from polluting streams and lakes, Thomas referenced her time in pharmacy. She said Scandinavian nations label their drugs for environmental impact and said the state should look into partnering with the University of Minnesota to do the same.
Thomas said her top budget priority would be education and said the state needs to continue to work to close achievement gaps seen along racial and class lines.
“Whether or not students can climb that gap is a big issue for us,” she said.
Thomas is concerned about mandating public early childhood education because the money and physical space needed to deliver it “would be impossible.”
“What we need to do is get creative with partnerships, both nonprofit and profit, and expand the ability for the people of Minnesota to get this kind of training,” Thomas said.
She said education was an area the state should consider investing surplus dollars.
Guns, housing, mining
Thomas said she would support the implementation of new gun laws that created universal background checks for sales and red-flag laws that would allow law enforcement to remove weapons from people deemed unwell or unstable.
Asked about mining in northern Minnesota, Thomas advocated the protection of the state’s watersheds and said new jobs in technology and science fields can fill the void created by decreasing mining work. She would oppose mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
“I don’t see how we could risk hurting our Boundary Waters,” she said.
Thomas said more needs to be done to create affordable housing in the district, but noted she understands there is resistance to it in Independence and Minnetrista.
“It is a difficult issue for the district, as I’ve begun to talk about that issue, and there needs to be some way to assist people living affordably in the district,” Thomas said.
Thomas, who lost to Hertaus by a wide margin in 2016, said she wants to bring her life experience to St. Paul.
“I’m ready to apply everything I’ve learned, all my experiences, to the people here in Minnesota,” she said.