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ISSUE 116 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/18/2002

Luther defends vote for Iraqi resolution: Congressional, governor races examined as candidates discu

By Julie Gunderson
News Editor

Friday, October 18, 2002

This election season has seen the state of politics go from Minnesota nice to Minnesota not-so-nice.

On Tuesday, Democratic congressional candidate Bill Luther and Green party gubernatorial candidate Ken Pentel both criticized the current climate of national and state politics.

Speaking about his experience in the currently Republican-controlled Congress, Luther chastised the legislature for being unable to "get things done."

"The current extremists in Congress are stopping things from getting done," Luther said. "The process is breaking down; the current majority is dragging their feet."

"We need new people in there to start getting things done."

Luther cited that he addressed Congress about his want to get environmental concerns. His ideas on renewable energy have been stymied by the slow legislative process.

"These are the important things that people are concerned about," Luther said. "And we can’t even get them addressed. We need people who are going to get these kind of things on the agenda."

Luther addressed the economic concerns facing our nation.

"Nothing is more important to our future than balancing the budget," Luther said. "I am a strong supporter of across-the-board tax cuts. I believe that it makes sense to give tax relief to mainstream America."

Luther addressed a controversial topic when a student questioned him about his position on abortion rights.

"I never believe that government should be involved in these decisions. It is the woman’s right to choose," Luther said. "The issue should be handled as a personal decision."

Luther also criticized his opponent Republican John Kline, a native Texan, for being in the Minnesota congressional race.

"Kline wouldn’t be in this race if it weren’t for Washington," Luther said.

The Iraqi resolution, which was passed by both chambers of Congress last week and will give the president the power to use military force against Iraq, was also a topic of discussion.

Luther voted for the resolution, although he said that he would have preferred a two-step process, which would have sent the President first to the U.N. for support, and then back to Congress before military action could be taken.

"It was a very hard decision," Luther said. "At the beginning I had incredible concerns about the way the administration began handling the Iraqi matter. I felt, over time, that the President improved by engaging the public, Congress and the U.N. in this debate."

Questioned further about the issue, Luther defended his vote by acknowledging the seriousness of the Iraqi threat.

"I think that when you are dealing with weapons of mass destruction you need to give a certain degree of authority to the President."

Luther assured the audience that he was an independent voice and was not afraid to stand up in defiance of the President.

"After September 11, there was a concious and important effort to stand united on the war on terrorism," Luther said. "I think more and more now you will see dissention over issues. This Iraq debate illustrates this."

Luther was also asked about the Sam Garst issue; Garst is a third-party candidate whose presence in the election and association with Luther has raised eyebrows.

Major news media in Minnesota, including the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, have been severely critical of the Luther campaign on the Garst issue, calling it "a new low in Minnesota politics."

Luther’s response to the issue, however, saw him criticizing his opponent for past campaign tactics and blaming over-zealous supporters.

"I have tried to make it clear to people surrounding my campaign that two wrongs do not make a right," Luther said. "We have high standards for this campaign and want to run this thing on the issues."

Another high profile race in Minnesota is the gubernatorial race that involves four parties.

Green party gubernatorial candidate Pentel spoke with students in the Pause on Tuesday, addressing what he would like to see changed in politics.

"I didn’t desire this–to run for Govenor," Pentel said. "But then you start looking around and you hear silence where their should be voices and your frustration grows and your sense of responsibility grows."

Pentel was also highly critical of what he sees as our current adminstration’s violent approach to world conflict.

"I see war as a dysfunction of society," Pentel said. "Non-violence is the answer. If war worked then we wouldn’t still have war; these problems wouldn’t still exist."

Pentel spoke about the values of the Green party and how they go against mainstream politics.

"Being in the Green party is like swimming against the tide," Pentel said. "You have to dig in for the long haul. It is not easy."

Pentel urged for a return to grassroots politics.

"We need to bring politics back down to the ground where it belongs," Pentel said. "We need to remove all these lobbyist and special interest groups so public elections are publicly financed."

More political discussion is expected on campus as the election season comes to a close. On Oct. 29, Jim Mladek, Democratic candidate for State Senate, is scheduled to speak at the Political Awareness Committee dinner at 6 p.m. in Valhalla.

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