Interview with the 8th District Hopeful Tarryl Clark


Politics is a messy game. Sometimes it can produce elation, listening to the bubbly slogans of the campaign trail and eating them up verbatim. But more often than not politics is expansively depressing. That may be why almost half the country doesn’t vote in elections. The exacerbating rhetoric, political hypocrisy, empty promises and voter’s general apathy toward the issues all play a role.  Most folks run for office because they feel like they are the solution to the current problem. Every candidate in every election is running because they are trying to fix the problem. We vote for problems that a lucky solution gets to try and fix four years down the line. It’s easy to be a pessimist when the problems are always in office. And when the solution comes along, it’s just another problem.
But there’s always room for optimism I suppose. I recently caught up with DFL hopeful Tarryl Clark. The 112th Congress of the United States consists of 445 men and 93 women. It is always important to have a woman’s perspective. Here it is:

MJ: What are you going to bring to the 8th district that Jeff Anderson & Rick Nolan may leave behind?
TC: I am the only candidate in this race who has worked all across this district over the last 24 years. As a youth minister, nonprofit senior citizen attorney, executive director of Minnesota’s Community Action Partnership, and a legislative leader, I worked across central and northeast Minnesota on behalf of our children, seniors, veterans, and families. That’s why President Clinton endorsed me, and I am proud to have his support.  As a legislative leader, I worked across the aisle in a polarized environment to pass a balanced budget that didn’t compromise the priorities of the middle class or seniors.
MJ: Chip Cravaack has gotten a lot of flack in his first and maybe only term. But the 8th district chose him. Has there been a schism or a shift in the 8th district’s sentiment that will give you an edge over Cravaack this November?

TC: Since his first day in office, it has been clear that Congressman Cravaack doesn’t share the priorities of the people in our district. He made jobs and the economy a big part of his campaign, however, Congressman Cravaack has done little to encourage job growth in northeast Minnesota, and has even voted repeatedly to continue rewarding companies that are shipping jobs overseas.
He is out pushing a plan that will end Medicare and force seniors to pay more and more out-of-pocket each year. At the same time, his plan cuts taxes for people making over a million dollars a year, forcing seniors to foot the bill.

MJ: I interviewed Cravaack in January and his main focus was on easing regulations and tax burdens on small businesses and promoting serious job growth. Would you adhere to a similar mantra?
TC: For the last sixteen months I’ve been promoting growing good sustainable jobs in our region, state and country as national co-chair of Jobs21! for the BlueGreen Alliance and before that as a legislative leader. The best way to grow local jobs is building the infrastructure, and retooling manufacturing to compete in the 21st century economy.
Whether it is for roads, rail, broadband internet access or increased cell coverage, any money invested in building infrastructure will put people to work now and bring good jobs to our region for years to come.
Instead of just shipping taconite out of the port, we should be creating steel here again. We see giant wind turbines coming in to the port from countries across the ocean, with the right investments we could be making those turbines here and sending them out to the world.

MJ: What do you think is most important to the 8th district at this juncture?
TC: It’s important for us to have a representative in Congress who is able to work across party lines to get the results that our families and communities need, especially in this polarized environment. On issues like job creation and protection, enhancing our infrastructure, access to healthcare and making sure our children are ready to compete in the 21st century.

MJ: Non-ferrous mining seems to be a dividing issue with Minnesotans. What is your take on Polymet & non-ferrous mining?
TC: Mining has always and will continue to be a big part of life in northeastern Minnesota, along with a tradition of hunting, fishing and otherwise enjoying our beautiful outdoors. The right has tried to convince us that we can either have jobs or the environment, not both, but we know better. We need the mining companies to demonstrate they can do this in a safe way, scientifically, and they’ve said can do it.  With that said, there are layers of regulations and standards that can make it confusing to know what is expected. We can streamline and clarify rules, helping employers create jobs faster, without lowering our science based standards.

MJ: What’s the most appropriate way to bridge the disconnect and encourage dialogue/cooperation during partisan gridlock?
TC: As Assistant Majority Leader in the Minnesota Senate, I worked hard over two legislative sessions to pass laws to protect seniors from predatory lending, in this case, reverse mortgages.  We worked hard to bring together a large coalition to make sure the legislation had the support to pass. The attorney general’s office, AARP, and with Lutheran Social Services, were all at the table, but the big banks refused reasonable protections. Even though the legislation passed the Senate by a wide margin, Governor Pawlenty sided with the big banks and vetoed the bill.
 The next legislative session, we started back in on new legislation to address predatory lending, because I knew it couldn’t wait. Because we weren’t backing down, the big banks came to the table this time and we were able to put together a proposal which contained 90% of what we had originally wanted now with the support of the banks.  Governor Pawlenty signed it into law, and the protections we needed for seniors became law.

MJ: What do you love about the 8th district?
TC: I love our resilience and can-do spirit. This spirit was on full display after the June floods, when we saw our communities pull together, help our neighbors and get back open for business in just a matter of days. I know that with the right investments in our community and this can-do spirit, we will create good jobs here, and make sure that we are seeing completed products, not just taconite, leaving Duluth and going out to the rest of the world.