Few differences distinguished the seven candidates represented in the St. Louis Park forum.
Minnesota’s Republican U.S. Senate candidates, all vying to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken, joined together Tuesday night to sketch out the profiles they believe will help them in their quest.
At a forum in St. Louis Park, they found broad agreement that the military should be funded, that Israel is a friend that deserves full support and that anti-abortion “personhood” legislation is the right direction.
Each is hoping, despite Franken’s solid support in public polls and massive fundraising advantage, that Minnesotans are ready for a new U.S. senator. They have some reason to believe. Nationally, Democrats are getting more anxious about their ability to keep the Senate from Republican control and Franken, who won his first race by just 312 votes, is already a target.
“He does just about enough to get by and not enough to get noticed,” said David Carlson, one of six candidates who appeared at the debate. St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg, a seventh candidate, sent a stand-in to the debate.
The two candidates with the best organized campaigns — businessman Mike McFadden and Julianne Ortman — sought to build on their support.
“I believe in a limited but effective government,” McFadden, a former executive with Lazard Middle Market, said repeatedly. “Washington’s broken, we need to go there and fix it.”
McFadden has the backing of one powerful current and former Minnesota Republican office holder, noting in his opening statement that former U.S. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, who was in the audience, had been “very, very helpful” to his campaign.
Ortman, a former chairwomanof the Minnesota Senate’s Tax Committee, used her opening statement to issue a veiled attack against McFadden.
“We are not the party of insiders in Washington,” she said early on. “This isn’t an entry level seat,” she added later.
The Tuesday event, sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition, was heavy on foreign policy questions.
The candidates were united in their stance that President Obama has not been a strong leader on foreign policy and that military budgets, particularly in regard to aid to Israel, should not be cut.
“Right now our allies don’t trust us and our enemies don’t fear us,” said Jim Abeler, a 16-year veteran of the state House .
Late in the debate, the candidates found broad agreement on whether they support “personhood” legislation in regard to abortion, which could ban all abortions. Ortman, Abeler, Philip C. Parrish, Monte Moreno all said they support personhood.
McFadden said: “I believe in pro-life at conception.” Carlson said he did not want to restrict women’s options.
The event did have some unexpected moments.
Moreno introduced himself by quoting the Old Testament and saying that he believed that he was the only candidate “with Hebrew blood.”
Midway through, Abeler blanked for a moment while he was trying to answer one question, saying “I probably shouldn’t have skipped dinner before I come to this kind of thing.”
NOTE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden as he stated his beliefs about conception. This version contains the correct quotation.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @RachelSB