U.S. House candidates discuss Ukraine, Farm Program and climate change

Photo by Geoff Thaden
Photo by Geoff Thaden

(Fargo, ND) – The four candidates for the lone United States House seat – the GOP-endorsed Alex Balasz, former Miss America Cara Mund, Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak and former state legislator and Bismarck plastic surgeon Rick Becker –  set their sights on Fargo on Thursday night for their final debate ahead of Election Day next week.

The candidates are vying for the seat being vacated by Kelly Armstrong, who is running for Governor.

Ukraine assistance

The candidates were asked to share their views on the United States sending military and financial support to Ukraine to assist in the country’s war with Russia.

“I do not agree with the way that it was done, but I do agree with supporting Ukraine,” Balasz said. “I do think that there's a need to support the Ukraine fighters, and that's different than Zelenskyy and the rest of the people over there that are taking the money maybe in waste in it or stealing it or putting (it) somewhere.”

With regard to future support, Balasz said he would agree to it, but that the support ‘has to be carefully measured.’

Fedorchak had a much different view.

“The issue with Ukraine is that just another example of Biden's failed leadership in this country, and the weakness of our international policy and our energy policy,” she said. “I've been on record saying I would support the funding to Ukraine. I do think there needs to be more accountability for it, but it's better to help shore up the forces in Ukraine that are already there than having to have it unravel more and having to engage at any point with our own forces.”

Fedorchak said the United States has to “find a way in this country to support our allies, to support democracy in the world, while also having balanced budget, supporting limited spending and getting our financial house in order.

Becker said he’s opposed to funding Ukraine.

“We do not belong there,” he said. “These are things we have to address, yes, but sending money, going further into debt when we're not even addressing our own needs at home.”

Mund supports aid to Ukraine.

“The reality is we need to stop Russia now. And when you look at this cost benefit analysis of do we spend the money now or do we potentially have to spend significantly more in the future, are we gonna have to fight this here on our land,” she said. “I would much rather fight it there than here.”

Mund said by supporting allies, ‘we would hope that if we were ever in the situation that they would also support us.’

International affairs

The candidates were asked what they would do in Gaza if they were asked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I would say you gotta keep fighting for your own security and you gotta push back,” Fedorchak said. “They were attacked by Hamas terrorists funded by Iran.”

She said the United States ‘needs to stand firmly with Israel.’

“They're our only strong ally in the Middle East, and they are a place where we can store weapons, have help to push back on the terrorism that comes from that part of the world and can be quickly land on our own soil,” Fedorchak said.

Becker said that, if he were Netanyahu, he would tell Joe Biden ‘to pound sand.’

“It is absolutely ridiculous that America thinks, or the Biden administration specifically thinks, that it has the purview to tell Israel what to do when they are being attacked relentlessly over and over and over for years by terrorists just across their border,” he said. “If I was Netanyahu, I would clear out Gaza completely without remorse, without hesitation,” Becker said.

Mund said she’d encourage Netanyahu to continue to fight.

Balasz said he would offer the country’s full support at messaging.

“There's a difference between Palestinians and Hamas and we're not really doing our job here in the states,” he said.

Farm Program

The four candidates were asked if they support the farm program in its current form.

“The form is constantly changing,” Becker said. “So it's difficult to say exactly on this state what I would support or not.”
He said the major components of the farm bill “have nothing to do with agriculture.”

“A lot of it is welfare,” Becker said. “Those programs grew tremendously under President Obama. We need to reign those back in. We need to get control.”

Mund said the farm bill is one piece of legislation that is crucial when talking about bringing a moderate from North Dakota to Congress.

She reflected on the last time she ran for Congress against Armstrong in 2022.

“We thought that in that upcoming legislative session that this was gonna be something that would be passed. And here we are,” Mund said. “They've kicked the can down the road. I don't even know if they will pass it. Hopefully they will. But I might be in the same situation that I was when I ran in 2022 if elected. Farming is a very risky business and we all know that. And the farmers are the backbone of our community.”

Balasz said there are parts of the farm bill that can be brought back to the state level.

Fedorchak highlighted that one-in-five jobs in North Dakota is tied to ag.

“It's really important that we have somebody committed to working with our farmers and ranchers and producers the whole ag industry in North Dakota,” she said. “We absolutely do need to pass a new farm bill.”

She touched on security, as well.

“That's why we have a farm bill because food security is essential to our country, just as essential as fuel security,” Fedorchak said. “So those two go hand in hand and I would be a strong advocate for those reasons.”

Dylan Mulvaney controversy

The candidates were all asked to characterize the viral social media post by the Becker campaign involving social media star Dylan Mulvaney.

“I know it's something that I wouldn't have necessarily done,” Mund said. “I haven't put any resources towards an attacking ad and doing these types of videos. And it's not something that I would ever do as your next representative.”

Balasz said he ‘wouldn’t have hired Dylan Mulvaney to do anything.’

“I wouldn't perpetuate that sickness in our society. I think that the first thing you might do is send them a check to get some help,” he said. “But I certainly wouldn't hire them to attack a woman and I wouldn't hire them to attack another candidate in this debate or in this race.”

Fedorchak, who was the target of the post, said she was shocked when the post appeared.

“It's the kind of political gamesmanship that I think our citizens are really tired of,” she said. “I would be afraid to send Rick Becker to Washington and wonder what kind of antic he's going to come up with to work against a fellow Republican in DC, and how is that going to help our state move the ball on the policies that we need to deal with?”

Becker said he found the stunt funny – and that his campaign owns doing it.

“It was what we thought was a very humorous thing to do in the campaign to bring attention to the campaign, to bring awareness of your willingness and desire for wind energy, which has put coal on the rope,” he said.

Climate change

The four candidates were asked about their views on climate change, and whether or not it is a hoax.

Balasz said it isn’t.

“I absolutely think that the premise is absolutely wrong,” he said. “We already know the science isn't there and they pushed it down on us and they pushed it down. It's to the extent that it's now in North Dakota and it's affecting us with accreditation for carbon and the rest.”

Fedorchak said the world ‘is an example of the climate is always changing.’

“North Dakota was a tropical paradise at one point,” she said. “I think that's why we ended up having the oil reserves that we have here.”

Becker said that climate change ‘is a complete hoax.’

“And we're seeing it every day and how it's affecting us with regulations,” he said. “What I see is that they are creating a system all the way back to Al Gore and the carbon credits. And there are going to be players, big industry, private individuals that are going to get wealthy off of this because they are scavengers playing this game.”

Mund said she doesn’t call climate change a hoax, but that there shouldn’t be federal regulation on it.

“I do really think it needs to be left to the states,” she said. “I don't think a representative in California should be saying how we should regulate in North Dakota.”

Social Security reform

By the mid-2030s, it is projected that the Social Security system will no longer be able to pay all scheduled benefits. The candidates were asked what reform options they would advocate for.

“This is a complicated problem,” Fedorchak said. “I'm not gonna advocate for any specific reform right now. I'm gonna advocate for a process to get to the reform that I think is needed because this is a political football.”

Becker said the option must include ‘a way that everyone who is currently receiving social security benefits or everyone who has paid in for many years and is coming close to receiving social security benefits, they must be held whole.’

“We need to have an honest conversation in this country,” he said. “We need to do reform because if we don't, it won't be there for the next generations.”

Mund has pledged to protect Social Security.

“Social Security is not a handout from the government. I'm paying into it right now. You have paid into it. You want it there for your family, for your children, for your grandchildren,” she said. “And so it is a complex problem that we need to bring solutions to, which is why I think it's crucial.”

Mund said the cap needs to be raised, and a donut needs to be enacted.

“There are potential ways to solve this, but kicking the can down the road, fighting within the party, staying too far to the right or too far to the left is not going to bring solutions,” she said.

Balasz said Social Security shouldn’t be touched.

“You can say what you want about it. We're not raising the cap. We're going to make that fund whole,” he said. “So if you think you can't do it is because you don't have the experience to know how Washington works. And the bottom line is the money's there.”