FULL INTERVIEW: Congressional candidate Jeff Ettinger profile

KEYC News Now's Sean Morawczynski's full interview with democratic congressional candidate Jeff Ettinger
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 4:47 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - After a special election in August, the seat in southern Minnesota’s first congressional district is up for grabs again in the November general election.

One of those candidates vying for the seat is democrat Jeff Ettinger. KEYC News Now’s Sean Morawczynski sat down with Ettinger, the former CEO of Hormel.

You’ve labeled yourself as a moderate Democrat. What does that mean to you in terms of policy?

Jeff Ettinger: I’ve not been a politician previously at more of a community and business leader. Over the years I’ve supported candidates from both parties. Although with the election of President Trump, to me the republican party went to different directions I just couldn’t support.

I’m a person who believes the government can play a positive role in improving society but I think you need to focus your attention on those who are truly in need and you can’t try to solve all problems at once. I’m probably more progressive when it comes to defending individual rights.

As a moderate what areas do you think you differ from your party to maybe towards more of the conservative side?

Probably things are related to how we spend money in in the country. For example, President Biden has made [an executive order] about student loan debt relief, a$10,000 across-the-board basically as what the order has right now and to me I don’t think that’s a focused approach. I don’t think it sends the right message to people that ‘Hey, you take out a loan and even if you’re able to pay it back that we’re just gonna wipe out $10,000 worth I think it would’ve been a better better action if it was more focused on certain things.

Are there are other areas of the government where you think that’s funny I mean limited or cut back?.

Well, I mean in terms of some of the bills that have gone by recently. I was not a big fan of the Build Back Better for the same reasons I just mentioned. To me, it was just too much on top of the spending we had already done to help after COVID, it tried to accomplish a lot of things at once and a number of the areas really weren’t very focused on those who are truly in need. In contrast, I was a big supporter of the Inflation Reduction Act. To me, that narrowed it back down to two key areas: healthcare and cost reduction, especially people confronted with so many inflationary pressures right now. Finally, allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug cost, and then climate provision, smart provisions, that allow producers in the area to accelerate their progress in wind and solar, and allow us as homeowners or car owners, or his farmers to participate with smart incentives as well.

Inflation and the economy is gonna be a major voting issue or this election. How do you see, a you’ve voice your support for the inflation reduction act, but with recent global events going on, we had the OPEC+ announcing their cut back on production, how do you see a way to maybe insulate or protect the US from international events?

It’s a continuing challenge. Very early on in the campaign season I put out a 10-point proposal on inflation and a couple of things were adopted right away. The president tapped into our strategic Oil reserves and also the having E-15 be available on a year-round basis, and then again the inflation reduction act now kicked off a couple more things with the prescription drug limits and those smart energy bills. I think we would benefit from having our and antitrust laws enforced more aggressively. Senator Klobuchar has a proposal for Congress right now to do that and ultimately, I think if we could make more things locally that would benefit us as well. We would be less susceptible to the supply chain challenges.

With the supply chain challenges right now there’s lotta shortages in areas of employment, specifically truck jobs last month in September were lost. That’s a big factor in supply chain issues and you know about that as a former CEO of Hormel. How do you adopt kind you saw at Hormel to help out those national supply chains?

There are things we’ve done our local community to try to help people be prepared with the right skills for the right position. So I chair the Hormel Foundation we’ve created a two-year scholarship program in conjunction with our community college where all Austin grads can go in attain those tech degrees toward that kind of thing. I think if we did more of that it would help our local employers to be able to fill up their facilities. You drive around the district and there’s help wanted signs out but there’s a mismatch between the skills that they need and what people have right now. And if we could provide some support we could close that gap.

Are there any other method did you see, we’ve talked about gas pump and oil and OPEC... food, groceries, pretty much everything pricewise is going up. Do you have any other specific mechanisms that you were employed to bring those prices down?

Again on the antitrust side, I think the thing that the state did that was really smart was they had a a bill recently that allowed 15 smaller processors in eggs and milk and meat to go into business and help out some of these more niche markets. I came from Hormel, we were less of a niche player, we are more of a scale player we’re really not set up to do a small round of hogs for example so I think this was a smart way to provide other options for consumers in the area.

Switching to a different topic in abortion. This past March, it was leaked the supreme court would be a returning Roe v. Wade, which they eventually did. You said you wanted to codify Roe v. Wade but what was your initial reaction to win that decision was leaked?

Sure, I mean it has been an interesting evolution just talking with voters over my now almost eight months running for the office and the three stages of our race. Initially people have always had strong opinions on abortion , but it was a little more of an abstraction. We had a long place with Roe v. Wade. It was a standard that was the law of the land. As the decision leaked, then clearly wants it became the final decision, it really a rocketed it up in terms of importance for a lot of people and for good reason. Now, it was truly being confronted to have the right taken away.

I was an attorney originally at Hormel foods, so I have that background and understand how, yes we have laws that are passed by a state or by the federal government, but those I’ve always been supplemented by Case law in our country and precedence from those case laws decisions. And so to me, pulling the rug out from under a 50-year precedent like that was bound to create chaos and indeed it has. And so I think the best solution to that would be the codify Roe v. Wade at the federal level.

During Senate confirmation hearings several current justices had said that they would leave it as be, but that wasn’t the case do you see any other major cases at risk now falling after Roe v. Wade?

It concerns me, I mean, Justice Thomas mentioning his concurrence, that for some reason he thinks contraception should be on the cut list in some form. Clearly same-sex marriage on a national level was a product of a court decision, so I do think that that’s at risk. I think we should be taking action on

What sort of action?

I mean, they’re talking at the federal level, it was about to come to a vote and I think they’ve decided to push it past the election but I do believe both the House and the Senate will be taking votes on that and I think that’s appropriate.

As we sit what was presumably the last January 6 assault hearing wrapped up. We still have voters and other political candidates who are skeptical of election results in this country. What sort of message do you have those voters who are still unsure of integrity in our elections?

Well, I guess I have a hard time understanding it. I mean our election officials at a local level are our neighbors volunteering to do the job, I’ve known them all for years. I was not successful in the special election and it never crossed my mind to challenge the results or to question whether it was a valid vote total. I think we have very good procedures in place to do that. And it’s been a real concern. If January 6th had just been a really bad day that would be one thing, but I think dismaying part of it is that the other are so many candidates, including in our state, that are carrying on this is the denialism and undermining confidence in our elections.

Is there any other final message you like to get out to the voters?

Well, I just say I offer my candidacy are as a main stream problem solvers not a politician, somebody who I think can work with both sides in Washington, and be much more focused on getting things done versus just being a locked in a partisan vote for one side or the other

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.

The full interview is in the video play above.