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On the campaign trail with Barb Haley

Barb Haley spoke to Goodhue seniors about how her life has changed since deciding to run for office. (Photo by Samantha Bengs)

Health care costs and workforce issues have been constants along the campaign trail for Barb Haley. During visits to The Gardens at Cannon Falls Nursing Home, Ferndale Market and Goodhue Public School, the endorsed Republican candidate for Minnesota House District 21A spoke to voters about their concerns.

Health care

At the nursing home, residents sought clarity on the Affordable Care Act and Haley’s views on health care reform.

“Obamacare and MNsure have turned health care upside down,” Haley said. “The state of Minnesota spent $400 million on (MNsure) and it doesn’t work.”

While campaigning, Haley said she has heard from people that what used to take 15 minutes to enroll at the county, now takes three days through MNsure because of its convoluted system.

“I’ve talked to families whose health insurance is now more expensive per month than a mortgage,” Haley said. “Our district is one of the most expensive regions in the state for health care. We need to address this.”

Fighting to reform the state’s health care system has been a strong priority for Haley throughout her campaign.

“We have to be brave enough to call out when something doesn’t work, regardless of party,” Haley said. “Let’s recognize it’s not working, then come together to find a solution because it is bankrupting companies, families and farmers.”

Workforce

Haley, a Red Wing native and former executive with AT&T, has worked with multiple local organizations including Every Hand Joined, SteppsUp, Red Wing YMCA and the former Fairview Red Wing Health Services. Haley initiated Red Wing WORKS, a partnership between schools and manufacturers. The program’s focus is promoting manufacturing careers and building a strong job pipeline for area industries.

She explained how her career began with a family-owned radio technology entrepreneur that grew to be sold to AT&T as the corporation was developing cellular technology.

“I have worked on both sides, with small business and large corporations,” she said. “I have experienced how government affects them both.”

Haley visited Ferndale Market, just south of Cannon Falls. The market is a third-generation family-owned turkey farm. The Petersons opened an on-farm store in 2008, partnering with more than 70 other local producers — from pork farmers to pasta makers. Annie Knox, marketing and communications manager at Ferndale Market, said that farmers, big or small, just want government regulations that make sense.

“Farmers are getting pushed so tight with consumers asking for very cheap food,” Knox said.

“The power play has really changed.”

Haley said she knows the value of farming to our communities and promotes responsible policies for ag-related growth.

Knox said Ferndale is able to pay workers a decent amount because turnover is a non-issue for the family business, but she questioned what will happen when farmers start to retire.

The average farmer is well over 50, according to state data.

“We need to support the smaller family farm,” Haley said. “A big question we need to face is how do we get youth interested in this field?”

Haley said the support of small farmers falls into the cycle of economics.

“We need policies to grow jobs and lower taxes and health care costs to allow businesses to succeed,” she said. “If elected, when policy crosses my desk, I want to call back to the community, to the nurses, farmers and teachers, to discuss and learn how policy affects their business.”

In the classroom

In Michelle Rehder’s senior government class at Goodhue Public School, Haley discussed the inner workings of a political campaign. She told students how early in her career she identified business, non-profit work, education and politics as areas she wanted to work in.

“When Rep. Tim Kelly called and asked if I would be interested in running, that final goal came into view,” Haley said. “I had worked in business, non-profits and education. The timing was right for my family to do this.”

Haley spoke about knocking door-to-door, candidate forums, her marketing efforts, campaign fundraising and the large amounts of political action committee spending.

“Because this is open seat, our district race is getting a lot of attention,” Haley said.

A student asked about the difference between Haley and Democrat Lisa Bayley.

“When I decided to run, I told myself that this race would be in my own words and it would be a positive campaign. I know Lisa — our kids are in school together. She is fine person and extremely competent,” Haley said. “We do, however, have a difference in philosophy and policy.”

She explained to students how negative campaign material is generated from political action committees as independent expenditures.

“It is so important to read the fine print and understand where information is coming from,” Haley said. “I don’t think either Lisa or myself realized how much attention this would draw.”

Haley told students her path toward running for office is a culmination of hard work and experience. “Your life will take you in many directions,” she said. “Follow what you like to learn and opportunities will come your way if you work hard.”

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