Rep. Angie Craig and GOP challenger Tyler Kistner clash in first debate on health care, climate change

    U.S. Rep. Angie Craig (left) and is running against GOP-endorsed candidate Tyler Kistner in the 2nd congressional district.

    U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, the Democrat first-term congresswoman, and GOP challenger Tyler Kistner faced off in their first debate Thursday, clashing on issues like health care, prescription drug costs and climate change. 

    The two candidates offered striking contrasts in their approach to governing, most notably on climate change. 

    “You’re going to hear everyone say Republicans are against climate change and we don’t believe in science, but it’s completely false,” Kistner, a first-time political candidate said. “I believe in the science and I see the climate is changing, but I’m not here to sacrifice the American economy on the altar of climate change.”

    Kistner also invoked U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman congresswoman from New York who has championed the Green New Deal, a comprehensive agenda embraced by progressives but now wielded as a GOP attack line. 

    When Kistner tried to tie Craig to the Green New Deal, it prompted a retort from her.

    “I don’t support the bill of the Green New Deal,” she said. “I’m not sure if my opponent is a little confused about who he’s running against today.”

    On climate change, she said, “I don’t think for one minute that we have to choose addressing carbon emissions in this country and the changing climate over economic growth.” 

    On health care, Kistner said he supported proposals that include allowing other countries, including Canada, to import prescription drugs. He also pushed back against characterizations that Republicans are attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite multiple votes in Congress to do so. 

    The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on Nov. 10 — a week after the election — on the health care law, which President Donald Trump’s administration is seeking to overturn. 

    “Yes they’re voting for it on Nov. 10, but Republicans have actually pushed out a plan,” Kistner said, without offering more specifics. 

    Craig’s position is that Congress should build on the health care law, and said she supports a public option, which would allow some Americans to purchase a public insurance health plan. She also said the federal government should be able to negotiate drug prices, a measure the Democrat-led U.S. House has already approved. 

    “There are so many things we need to do without completely throwing out choice for Americans,” she said. 

    Hosted by the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce, the forum harkened to civil debates with few interruptions or talking over the moderator.  

    Craig and Kistner have two more debates left, including a Friday debate on MPR News. 

    The two are also in a court battle that will determine the timing of the 2nd Congressional District election. The death of Adam Weeks, a third-party candidate, triggered a special election in February but Craig’s campaign has sued to allow the election to proceed in November, arguing federal election law preempts Minnesota’s law regarding a vacancy in nomination.

    Ricardo Lopez
    Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.