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3rd Congressional District: Pfaff, Van Orden answer Tribune questions

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Derrick Van Orden, Wisconsin

“This is a national disgrace that did not need to happen. It is yet another example of President Biden bungling President Trump’s policy strategy to appease the radical left, putting Afghan and American lives at risk in the process and emboldening the Taliban.”

Derrick Van Orden, R-Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, who running unopposed for Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional district. A former Navy SEAL, he served two six-month tours in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2009.

Candidates for the 3rd Congressional District seat recently answered a set of questions asked by the Tribune. Here are the written answers from Brad Pfaff (D) and Derrick Van Orden (R), as well as the biographical information they both supplied when they answered questions prior to the primary election.

What policies do you think would best support farmers in the 3rd District?

Pfaff: I was born and raised in this district on my family’s dairy farm, and I’ve spent my career fighting for Wisconsin’s family farmers at the state and national level. I understand the challenges facing farmers in western and central Wisconsin, and I know that means to have no voice at the federal agriculture policymaking table. This is unacceptable, which is why I’m running to seek a seat on the House Agriculture Committee. With the 2023 Farm Bill on the horizon, we need real leadership and real experience on this committee to elevate the voices of Wisconsin farming communities.

What we don’t need is Derrick Van Orden in this seat and at that table because he doesn’t understand our communities. That’s why he doesn’t have a plan or proposal to address the challenges our farmers are facing. Unlike him, I’ve released a set of proposals that would invest in family farms and prioritize local growers, not giant agribusinesses. I’m running a campaign based on real solutions, and that starts with our farming communities.

Van Orden: The best start will be to have a member of Congress on the Agriculture Committee. That is why for over two years I have been saying that this is the only committee I will advocate to get on if elected.

On policy, we need to unleash American energy production to lower costs for our farmers. To put anything in the ground, to pull it out of the ground, to get it to a processing facility, and then get it to a retail market takes diesel fuel. The bulk of the nitrogen for fertilizer comes from natural gas, grains are dried with natural gas. The Biden administration shut those valves off and it has had a ripple effect throughout the economy so we need to open up America’s energy independence.

What are your thoughts on the work of the Jan. 6 committee, and what do you hope its impact will be?

Van Orden: This paper published my piece from Jan. 13, 2021, in which I condemned all forms of political violence and stated that that day was one of the most tragic in our nation’s history. That position has not changed. I wholeheartedly condemn all forms of political violence. I also condemn political theater, which is what this commission is. A group of career politicians, hand-selected by Nancy Pelosi, have abused the committee process for political gain. The only impact it will have is to increase the noise in the echo chamber that is the current leadership of the House of Representatives.

Pfaff: Jan. 6, 2021, was a shameful, deadly day that will live in infamy, and this committee should do everything in its power to fully uncover the depth of radical efforts to overthrow our free and fair elections. Derrick Van Orden was an active participant in the insurrection with photographic evidence proving he entered the restricted Capitol grounds.

No one who participated in the insurrection can call themselves a patriot. I believe we need more western Wisconsin values in Congress, not Derrick’s track record of insurrection, sexual and verbal harassment, and radically wrong stances on issues including women’s health, protections for people with preexisting conditions, and many of our western Wisconsin values.

In today’s divided world of politics, how are you appealing to undecided voters on the campaign trail?

Pfaff: Voters in this district need and deserve real solutions to the challenges that they are facing, and they need a leader in Congress who can elevate their voices above the partisan rhetoric. This is what I’ve done as State Senator, as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and what I will do as your Representative in Congress. I know how to work across the aisle — I was one of a handful of Democrats who voted in favor of the 2021-2023 Republican state budget signed into law by Gov. Evers that included a more than $2 billion tax cut and investments in broadband and infrastructure repairs. And I’m not afraid to speak truth to power — the state legislature refused to confirm my nomination as Secretary of Agriculture for criticizing their inaction on the silent mental health crisis facing our family farmers.

I’m not running to serve a political party or myself. I’m running to bring western Wisconsin values like hard work, common sense, and cooperation to Congress. These are values that everyone can get behind, regardless of political affiliation.

Van Orden: We have put nearly 180,000 miles on our vehicles during this campaign traveling this district and meeting folks where they are. They understand that as a former small businessman, I know how to create jobs and put the wellbeing of employees above my own. They understand that Sara Jane and I raised our kids on a single enlisted man’s salary, so I know how to live on a budget. And, being endorsed by 16 of the 19 sheriffs in the district, including La Crosse County’s own Jeff Wolf, they understand that I will work tirelessly for their security and safety. These issues transcend political parties and the people in the 3rd know I will work tirelessly to help make their lives better.

How urgent do you think it is to act on climate change, and what policies do you support to combat its effects, especially in the 3rd District?

Van Orden: We all want to have clean energy, and that means we need to streamline the regulations that are preventing the construction of new nuclear plants. As a reality check, if the Biden administration actually wanted to meet their self-professed goal of being carbon neutral by 2030, we would have to double the number of nuclear power plants in the entire world. This is impossible in the current regulatory environment and speaks to the fact that they have politicized this issue and are fear mongering instead of problem solving. On a typical day, fossil fuels provide 60% of power production in the Midwest. If people are truly serious about reducing these fuel sources, they need to embrace the actual solution. Until we get there, we must take an “all of the above” approach or we will have people freezing in the winter.

Pfaff: The climate crisis is real, and we’ve felt its effects here at home — rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and even the tragic loss of life. For too long, politicians in Washington have treated this crisis like an afterthought, and communities in western and central Wisconsin are suffering as a result.

I know that our farming communities have an important role to play in addressing the climate crisis and can serve as leaders in transitioning to the clean economy of the future. As State Senator, I’ve passed legislation incentivizing cover crops to prevent runoff and fought to preserve and protect our watersheds. And as Congressman, I’ll fight to reduce our out-of-state and foreign dependency on fossil fuels — the recently enacted CHIPS Act is a smart first step in addressing the climate crisis, but we can be doing more to solve the larger issue of long term energy costs.

Whoever wins in November will replace an incumbent who has served for more than two decades. Do you believe there should be term limits, and if so, for how long?

Pfaff: Term limits are an important issue worth considering, but there is more that we can do. Let’s prohibit sitting members of Congress from buying and trading stocks, overturn Citizens United, and work to decrease the influence of outside special interests in our democracy.

But when I’m on the campaign trail, I don’t hear a lot about these particular issues. I hear about how hardworking families in this district and across our state are still facing pressing challenges like high costs, both at the pump and at the grocery store.

My campaign is focused on cutting costs for working families, prioritizing Wisconsin farmers at the national level, investing in domestic manufacturing, and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. My opponent is happy to talk about term limits because he has no real plan to address these real problems that are impacting folks right here in Wisconsin. I know that this district wants solutions, which is exactly what I’m focused on.

Van Orden: I absolutely believe in term limits. Our founders never intended for career politicians like my opponent to be in office for decades. The goal was for people with real world experience to take that knowledge to the legislature, exchange what we now call “best practices” then return to their daily lives. As a congressman, I believe that three terms would be an appropriate number of years to accomplish my goals.


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