North Dakota's U.S. House candidates debate the issues

(Fargo, ND) – All 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 –  converged on Fargo on Thursday night for their final debate ahead of Election Day. The debate, hosted by The Flag and WDAY, was moderated by Steve Hallstrom and Scott Hennen. Several topics were discussed that are important to North Dakotans heading to the polls this election season.

Cutting federal funding

All four candidates were asked what specific area of federal funding, which has led to the country’s $35 trillion in debt, they would pledge to cut.

Becker said he would cut aid to foreign countries – something he calls a ‘giveaway’ to the countries.

“We see that with Ukraine spending where we're funding a government that we know to be corrupt,” he said. “It is going to government officials, it's not going to fighters.”

Mund also said the combatting of ‘continued reckless spending’ is important, but ‘we have to be very strategic in how we do it. She specifically addressed loans.

“Something that I am very much against was the loans that were given out, student loan forgiveness,” she said. “As a student myself, someone who has recently come out, I'm significantly thousands and thousands of dollars in debt. But when I took out a loan, I took on that responsibility to pay that debt back. And so I believe when a loan is given, it needs to be paid back.”

Balasz said cutting federal payroll is important.

“All the senior executive service that were placed on us by Obama, he doubled the size of senior executive service. And Trump's gonna have to pull us off because they're not gonna do what Trump wants 'em to do because they're bureaucrats sitting there sending these regulations down to the states that everyone doesn't wanna see,” he said.

Fedorchak said she would cut the Environmental Protection Agency.

“They're completely unaccountable. They’re way too much in everybody's business,” she said. “They're doing devastating work to our energy sectors here in North Dakota and agriculture.”

Federal regulations

The candidates were asked about their feelings on the worst federal regulations and how they would fight to end them.

“I've been very vocal against the EPA and their recent regulation coming down,” Mund said. “I support energy independence for North Dakota, and that's something that I will fight hard for.”
She also touched on agriculture.

“When I ran for this exact position, I'm the only one up here who's actually ran for it before in 2022, we were fighting for a farm bill, and Representative Armstrong and I were debating the farm bill,” Mund said. “And here we are two years later and we still don't have a farm bill. And these farmers and ranchers are relying on that. When you send a representative to Congress, you need to be advocating for your people. You can't keep pushing the can down the path and hope that eventually someone's gonna solve the issue.”

Mund said a ‘problem solver’ is needed.

Balasz said the EPA’s regulation requiring states to fund alternative energy and the accreditation needs to be stopped.

“It's almost embarrassing that we quote it in the 2023 electoral grid transmission report and say that politics and industry will decide where we go in North Dakota,” he said.

Additionally, Balasz said the EPA should drop “restrictions and controls on carbon emissions from ethanol plants and other plants that are not vehicular or energy producing plants.”

“I'm not considering ethanol plants as energy producing until you get to the coal level of natural gas. And then you have to pull off the EPA restrictions on the coal and natural gas industry because we're already meeting most of those things, most of the regulations that give you clean air and clean water, but they're still pushing down more,” he said. “And those regulations are based on this climate agenda. And the climate agenda is based on a false premise.”

Fedorchak said the Biden administration and the EPA is making tailpipe emission standards.

“It's basically an effort to make the combustion engine obsolete and require people to buy EVs,” she said. “It's terribly devastating to our oil and gas industries.”

She said recent greenhouse gas rules are’ terrible.’

“We worked hard with grid operators the Public Service Commission through the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, which I'm president of. We told the EPA, this doesn't work,” Fedorchak said. “The technology isn't available for what you're trying to accomplish. It's gonna drive up costs, it's gonna decrease reliability. It's gonna threaten brownouts and blackouts.”

Becker said the EPA’s restrictions are harming many sectors.

“It's unbelievable what they're doing to Americans and especially to the fossil fuel industry. Coal and oil,” he said.

Becker said 45Q and carbon neutrality are both issues, as well.

Conservatism

The four candidates were asked to define what a conservative is.

“I think you need to be a constitutional conservative,” Balasz said. “You need to follow the constitution and understand that the federal government should not be doing overreach into state's rights. Everything not there in the constitution, a conservative would know, should not be handled by the federal government, but should be handled down by the states.”

He also talked about fiscal conservatism.

“We should be drawing down those funds every single chance we get and watching over taxpayer dollars,” Balasz said. “We should be a steward for those.”

Fedorchak said she feels conservatism “is a mindset and a way of life.”

She said she was raised by ‘diehard conservatives.’

“Relying on yourselves first, doing the very best with what you've been given by God, doing the very best with those resources, being community minded,” Fedorchak said of what her values are. “That translates then into government.”

Becker said conservatism ‘means to conserve.’

“I think, at the very core, we're conserving freedom,” he said. “And the way to conserve freedom is to limit government. We want to conserve our communities. We want to conserve the nuclear family. We want to conserve the moral tradition. We want American sovereignty. That's what we want to conserve. We want to conserve state's rights.”

Becker said ‘maximum freedom’ is achieved by ‘employing philosophy and adhering to principles.’

Mund said being a conservative is truly limited government.

“Which means getting the government out of your doctor's appointments, out of your bedrooms, not controlling women, giving them their rights to their own healthcare. It means less restrictions and energy independence and it means doing the work, which is exactly what I did in 2022,” she said.

Conception

All four candidates were asked if life begins at conception and what exceptions they would support.

All candidates say they believe life begins at conception.

Mund, however, said her personal beliefs “will not dictate my legislative policy.”

“I'm not gonna take my personal belief and say that's what's best for our country. And especially when you're looking at the fact that these exceptions are not enforceable in the state North Dakota,” she said. “I understand we're losing doctors and the life of the mother. I don't wanna be hemorrhaging trying to know if my life matters.”

Fedorchak said she supports exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

“I think those are very reasonable exceptions and important exceptions,” she said. “I also feel that it's appropriate what this Supreme Court has done with the pro-life issue.”

Becker said there are no exceptions.

“That's the only logically consistent position you can take,” he said. “If you believe that the baby is a baby at the point of conception, at no point is it okay to kill it.”

Balasz said there are no exceptions for rape or incest.

Mass deportation

President Trump has called for mass deportation of all illegals on day one of a future presidency. All four candidates were asked if they would support Trump’s stance.

"It's an illegal invasion in our country,” Becker said. “It's really breaking down the fabric of our society. We need to be a country of law and order. We need to be a country of rules.”

Becker said the border being secured is important as well.

Mund said she would support Trump’s stance as well.

“We need to incentivize coming here legally, and this has been one of the biggest criticisms I've had of Biden,” she said. “The fact that we have these open borders. We're not securing the border.”

Mund said she would have supported the bipartisan border security act.

“This was a huge opportunity for Republicans under a Democrat president to actually get funding to do something about the issue,” she said. “And instead, we're seeing so many of them cave down to Trump or to use it as a political point to help them get elected.”

Balasz said deportation needs to happen.

“There's a couple key pieces of information you need to have on this,” he said. “And that is that it's gonna take a while to catch all the criminals.”

Fedorchak said she would fully support his work on the border and his policies.

“We have to shut it (the border) down,” she said. “We have to build the wall, whether it's a physical wall or a virtual wall, we have to secure our border.”