Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and other candidates spoke with students at a Q&A social event hosted by the North Dakota State College Democrats and Black Student Association on Thursday, Oct. 11.
Students and community members filled A. Glenn Hill Center rooms 130 and 132 to hear from local Democratic candidates and ask questions. Panel candidates included U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, U.S. Congressional candidate Mac Schneider, North Dakota Secretary of State candidate Joshua Boschee, North Dakota Tax Commissioner candidate Kylie Oversen, Senate District 45 candidate Danielle Pinnick, House District 45 candidate Tim Hoye and House District 45 candidate Lukas Maughan. Other candidates for the North Dakota Senate and House of Representatives were also present.
“I think Heidi Heitkamp is really good for North Dakota,” Michael Richard, a political science major at Minnesota State University Moorhead, said. He said he thought her morals best reflect those of North Dakota.
Richard brought along his roommate, Nolan Borchardt, who is a management information systems major at NDSU.
“I don’t know a lot about the candidates, so maybe I’ll get some more information,” Borchardt said.
Heitkamp, who has served as the junior U.S. senator for North Dakota since 2013, began her time with the microphone by having everyone stand on their feet and reach their hands over their head. She then asked the audience to lift their hands about six inches higher to emphasize the importance of mobilizing voters to go to the polls.
“There’s a whole lot more people we can reach out to,” she said.
Heitkamp’s message centered on how students play a crucial role in the election. Warning students about the national debt they will inherit, she talked about reforming interest rates on student loans, expanding access to health care and reducing discrimination for all people.
“What’s the country you’re going to inherit from my generation?” she asked.
Schneider spoke next. From 2009 to 2016, Schneider served as the 42nd District representative in the North Dakota State Senate.
“I’m going to work to make sure I do everything I can to make sure there’s a brighter future for young people,” Schneider said.
Schneider encouraged students to get involved wherever they can by running for student government, joining student organizations and becoming leaders in the larger community. He also talked about alleviating student debt as a priority.
“We need diverse voices of all backgrounds, races, religions and sexual orientations,” – North Dakota Tax Commissioner candidate Kylie Oversen
Boschee began by reminding the audience it was National Coming Out Day and that he stands with and supports the LGBT+ community. As the current representative for the 44th District in the North Dakota House of Representatives, Boschee graduated from NDSU and worked in the Student Activities Office for eight years.
“I’m proud to be a Bison and proud to stand with you all,” he said.
Boschee’s priorities include fighting against voter ID laws and modernizing the Secretary of State’s office. He said that currently, anyone looking to register a business in North Dakota can’t file paperwork online, and he wants to change that. He encouraged students to vote with absentee ballots and reminded them they will have the ability to vote directly on measures.
Like Boschee, Oversen said she wants to modernize the tax commissioner’s office to streamline the taxation process. As one of the youngest female legislators, Oversen served in the North Dakota House of Representatives from 2012 to 2016 as the 42nd District representative. She pointed out that about half of the candidates in the room were under the age of 40 and more than half were women.
“We need diverse voices of all backgrounds, races, religions and sexual orientations,” she said, adding that she hoped everyone and especially the students would consider running for office someday.
Oversen said the tax commissioner should be more engaged with constituents. If she’s elected, she promised to come back to campus and talk about issues with students.
During a Q&A portion, audience members asked candidates about what they are doing and will do to respond to rising mental illness and addiction rates, reduce carbon emissions, address the crisis of murdered and missing indigenous women and other questions.
A student in the audience named Isaac asked Heitkamp about rising mental illness rates and the quality of mental health care and facilities in North Dakota.
“There is no doubt North Dakota is failing,” Heitkamp said. She said solutions include keeping Medicaid expansion, growing the mental health professional workforce, tackling childhood trauma and other issues.
Another audience member thanked Heitkamp for voting against confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh, but criticized her and Schneider for protecting coal companies and not doing enough to reduce carbon emissions.
Heitkamp responded saying that she is working to find common ground with other senators through a project looking at technology that cuts down on carbon emissions from coal plants.
“We have to do what we can do,” she said. Schneider echoed Heitkamp and assured the audience he believes climate change is important and he cares about what happens to the planet.