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Kitchen table issues

Mac Schneider, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, says the farm economy is one of the top issues in North Dakota this election. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Mac Schneider, Democratic candidate for North Dakota's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, said he doesn't hear much about the topics that seem to dominate the national news when he talks with people during his campaign.

"What I don't hear a lot of is the stuff being talked about on cable news," he told The Jamestown Sun Editorial Board Thursday. "I don't have people run up to me and talk about the latest in the Michael Cohen case ... I think North Dakotans' focus is on those kitchen table issues, things that are important to their families, jobs, health care, retirement and I feel the same way."

One of his top concerns is tariffs and how they affect the North Dakota farm economy.

"It's been a long year and there has been a lot of chaos and uncertainty when it comes to trade," he said. "What our producers need more than anything is certainty. They need to know which markets they'll be selling to as they make planting decisions for next year. We've seen the exact opposite of that. Not just with NAFTA negotiations but with the administration's approach towards China."

Schneider said existing trade policies with China needed to be changed.

"I disagree with the use of tariffs to crack down on the Chinese but I certainly agree with the president that China's rule breaking is a problem," he said. "... the potential loss of Chinese soybean markets would be incredibly detrimental to production agriculture in North Dakota."

The aid package for farmers hurt by the tariffs and trade war is something Schneider said he reluctantly, but firmly supports.

"It will keep farmers on the land," he said.

Health care is another concern he hears when talking to North Dakotans.

"Let's set ideology aside and keep what works but fix what's broken," Schneider said. "Some things that work about existing law include Medicaid expansion."

Schneider says changes to the health care system are being made in the wrong way. A lawsuit in Texas, supported by other states, is challenging many of the changes put into place during the Obama administration.

"The Department of Justice is supposed to defend this lawsuit," Schneider said. "(It) is essentially saying throw out all the existing law Including Medicaid expansion, including protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions. That is a big threat to what we've done in a bipartisan basis in North Dakota to expand Medicaid."

Schneider said the best way to fix what's broken in the health care system is by legislation rather than lawsuits.

Other topics include the federal deficit which he calls a bipartisan problem.

"No longer a matter of ideological preference but a matter of math," Schneider said. "Our country cannot expect to routinely run $1 trillion deficits without consequences."

Immigration, support for the military and energy are all other topics Schneider has heard during his travels around North Dakota.

Most of the publicity and advertising dollars this election cycle in North Dakota are going to the U.S. Senate race between Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

"That's a bigger challenge," Schneider said. "Getting our message out with the spotlight on the Senate race."

Schneider faces North Dakota Sen. Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson, in the Nov. 6 general election.