This past week I got the chance to interview Michelle Fischbach, the Republican nominee in Minnesota’s 7th district. This highly competitive race is currently rated as a Tossup by Elections Daily. Below is the full transcript of the conversation between me and Michelle. Sadly, due to audio issues we were unable to upload the audio for this interview. I want to thank Michelle for taking time to speak with me, especially after what I am sure was a busy week with her primary.
What inspired you to run for Congress?
After I was done with the Lieutenant Governor’s office, I was at home and people started calling me about running for Congress. I started talking to a lot of folks around the 7th district about running. They really wanted a conservative who would fight for them and represent them and all their values.
So, I decided to get in the race and I know this is a strong Trump area. They have strong conservative values that I wanted to go and represent. So I entered the race.
How has COVID-19 affected the way you campaign?
During the shutdown itself, when most everything was shut down in Minnesota, we made a lot of phone calls. It was very nice to make the phone calls since people were home and wanted to talk. I had some great conversations with folks with a lot of phone calling.
Minnesota is back open for the most part now, there are some modifications that the Governor has put a mandate on. People are getting back out and even though a lot of events have been canceled we’ve made our own events. We’re getting out there and talking to folks, but during the shutdown it was just a lot of phone calls.
Minnesota’s 7th District is the most rural in Minnesota. What is it like campaigning in many small towns that all have their own personalities?
It’s great, because they do all have their own personalities. It’s being in those small towns, talking to folks, getting to know them and there’s always someone to talk to in these towns. They love having visitors.
It’s always a bit of a long drive between towns, but I appreciate every one of them and it’s great to be out talking to them. Lots of smaller events are happening and I’m sure they’re disappointed that the county fairs and parades were cancelled. That’s something they show hometown pride with!
You served as Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota for a year after your predecessor left. What was that experience like, especially since the Governor was a Democrat?
Some of the background is Governor Dayton nominated his Lieutenant Governor to fill Al Franken’s seat. So, automatically as President of the Senate, according to the Constitution of Minnesota, I became Lieutenant Governor.
Part of the trick was Republicans held a 34-33 majority in the senate. So for me to leave it would have crippled the Senate. I did not take the oath for a while and maintained my Senate seat through session. Then in late May, after session was over, I then resigned my seat to take the Lieutenant Governor’s spot.
It was interesting. The things that we did, different things I did during the time. Meet with various heads of state that would visit Minnesota and things like that. It was towards the end of Governor Dayton’s term and session was done, so there wasn’t much to be done. But, it was quite an experience to go through all of that to become Lieutenant Governor.
You served 20 years in the State Senate. How will you take the experience you’ve had there and use that in the House of Representatives?
I was in the Minnesota Senate and was President of the Senate. I think that the experience there in understanding how the legislative body works, how to get things done and making sure everything is done correctly. A big thing is also making sure you’re representing your constituents correctly.
Making sure you’re fighting, you’re getting things done through bills and that all those bills are helpful and properly written. That’s the kind of experience to Congress. And I think the people will appreciate that I do have some experience and understand how the legislative system works.
You won your primary this Tuesday with a majority of the vote. Did you expect to get to those margins?
We were very confident we would win the primary and we’re very happy with the nearly 60% we received. But we also had the Republican endorsement. We had the party backing and I think that really helped. It gives people a lead to see “she’s endorsed by the party.”
We did go through the endorsement process and I think that’s important. People wanted to make sure they supported the endorsed candidate. The people had taken the time to talk to me, look at my platform. I would say I’m not surprised at my numbers, but I’m certainly flattered that we’re through the primary.
Since the day we started this race we have been running against Colin Peterson and that’s the important part. It’s to make sure we can beat Colin Peterson. Everything we’ve done is heading towards that goal in November.
How much do you think the endorsement of the President helped you in your primary race?
I think the endorsement from the President was very important and I think the President understands what it takes to win. That was important to people, that he was backing someone who knows how to win this race and can beat Colin Peterson.
The 7th district is a critical district to win this year for House Republicans. The path to the majority goes through the 7th district and I think everybody understands that. And the President wants a Congress that is functional and will work with him instead of wasting their time on things like impeachment and three trillion-dollar bills going nowhere fast. So, he wants to make sure that there is someone running who can win and who will absolutely help him, support him and make sure Congress is functioning.
Why do you think you are finally the Republican who will be able to take down Colin Peterson?
Colin likes to talk about being conservative, but he’s not a conservative. He says one thing in the district and then goes to Washington and does another. He’s been telling folks here for almost 30 years that he’s a conservative, but in reality he votes 80% of the time with Nancy Pelosi. And in many of those instances it is not in the best interests for the district.
So, we are getting that message out and I think people are catching on. They also see a lot of his ratings. You use the pro-life rating as an example, his voting record on the pro-life issue has gone down. And this is a strong pro-life district, the 7th district. It’s very important to people those kind of things.
The biggest thing is we have put together a strong organization, we are raising the funds that we need to get that message out. I also have the experience that people are looking for and understand that’s important for a member of Congress
Do you think the 7th district has moved past Colin Peterson politically and do you think his positions are out of step with the politics of the district?
Oh, I think he’s very out of step with the district. I think the very first vote he takes when going to Congress is voting for Nancy Pelosi and that is out of step. I mentioned the pro-life numbers. He has dropped about 56% in his pro-life voting record. And those are out of step with the 7th district.
In addition to that they support immigration reform and he said that in the district. When he goes to Washington DC, he doesn’t act that way. That’s why I say I think the message is getting out there that he’s not what he says he is.
How will you make sure the agriculture community of your district is protected and secure in the wake of the pandemic?
I certainly understand the importance of the ag industry in our district and want to see it remain strong. And those rural communities that surround those farms, making sure they remain strong. It’s important for our rural communities to be strong and have the kind of education, the kind of job opportunities that other have. It’s so people can live there, drive there, raise their children there, get their education there. We want to make sure those communities are strong to because part of agriculture is making sure they have those strong communities.
Directly, we are talking to farmers, we are talking to them every day to see what they need. What’s working, what’s not working in those government programs. There’s a lot of government programs out there, but we never take a look at them and ask the farmers, what’s working, what’s not working, what do you want? To examine those and use our dollars more efficiently and making sure government is helping and not hindering. That is definitely something we are taking a look at.
What is your position on the use of tariffs?
I do think we need to protect our agricultural industry and I will say that prior to COVID, the President was making headway with China. Now, China has certainly proven itself an unreliable and untrustworthy partner. Certainly we do need to continue to look at trade and expand trade as best we can in other markets. China is a big market for our agricultural products, but since they’ve proven themselves unreliable, we need to be looking at those other markets. Japan, Australia, many other that we can export to and expand things to instead of continuing to rely on China for our exports.
What is your day-one issue if you are elected to Congress?
It’s the economy and I failed to mention it in the question about the farmers, but a robust economy is going to be the best thing for farmers. If we get the economy back going again and President Trump had it moving before COVID and all the shutdowns from states with Democrats for Governors. They really put a number on it. I want President Trump to be in charge of putting the economy back on track. I want to be a part of that and I want to make sure he has a functional Congress to help him do that. Because right now the way Nancy Pelosi is running the place, it is absolutely dysfunctional and Colin Peterson is part of that. My number one goal is to get the economy rolling again.