MORGAN, Minn. – U.S. Sen Amy Klobuchar touted her bipartisan leadership supporting farmers in Congress while state Rep. Jim Newberger, her likely Republican opponent in November, pressed for a change in leadership on Thursday.
With less than three months to the November election, Klobuchar and Newberger made their first joint appearance, making their pitch to rural Minnesota voters in a forum at Farmfest — the annual agricultural trade show that has long been a proving ground for political candidates trying to win over rural Minnesotans.
Klobuchar, who easily won the DFL endorsement, and Newberger, who got the GOP endorsement, agreed that the Trump administration needs to renegotiate U.S. trade deals immediately to alleviate retaliatory tariffs that have had an impact on farmers.
“I have one aim — and that is making sure that we have a strong Minnesota,” Klobuchar said, mentioning her long-standing practice of visiting all 87 counties in the state each year. “That’s why I work across the aisle with people I might not agree with on everything.”
Klobuchar, who was first elected to the Senate in 2006, plugged her experience over two terms. But Newberger, a paramedic from Becker who has served three terms as a Republican legislator, said it was time for someone else.
“Sen. Klobuchar has been in office for 12 years … folks, I think that’s enough,” Newberger said.
Klobuchar, a former Hennepin County attorney, has consistently ranked as one of the state’s most popular politicians. Her two-term incumbency, popularity and rising national profile helped her amass a sizable campaign war chest, ranking 20th among all senators running for re-election this year. According to campaign finance filings, Klobuchar has vastly outraised Newberger, tallying just under $7 million to his nearly $100,000. She’s spent about $2.8 million compared with Newberger, who has spent about $98,000.
“I will raise what it takes to win,” Newberger said Thursday.
In front of the crowd at Farmfest, he said he took issue with a provision in the Senate farm bill that rewards farmers with a discount in insurance if they adhere to certain environmental standards. He questioned what will happen when the government’s standards change, and said that the impact on farmers isn’t just by tariffs, but also U.S. taxes and regulations.
“And I think Sen. Klobuchar has something to answer for, for that,” he said. “Folks, the real cost of farming is wrapped up in every single bill that you pay every single day. And we need to get away from the dependence on government and just let you do what you do best — and that’s farm.”
Touching on other issues, Newberger said he would push to stop refugee resettlement and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
In contrast, Klobuchar said she would help pass comprehensive immigration reform and bring down the cost of health care, such as by increasing access to less expensive prescription drugs. Klobuchar defended the Senate’s farm bill, which she helped assemble as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and said Congress would finalize it before Sept. 30 — when the current four-year farm bill expires.
“Given the volatility in prices, in weather and in the Trump trade wars, we need to get this done,” Klobuchar said to cheers and applause from the audience.
Like Newberger, Klobuchar also pledged to work to expand broadband internet and work with colleagues across the aisle.
“I believe courage in Washington is no longer just standing by yourself, giving a speech, throwing barbs at your opponent,” Klobuchar said, adding that 18 of the bills on which she was the lead Democratic sponsor have been signed into law during the Trump administration. “Courage is whether or not you’re willing to stand next to someone for the betterment of this country, even when you don’t agree on everything. And that is why I have made it my hallmark to find common ground.”