REGIONAL—North Branch Mayor Kirsten Kennedy isn’t afraid to talk about a subject that doesn’t enter the political discussion often in the age of Trump: Morals.
The longtime DFLer, who is seeking the Eighth District congressional seat currently held by Rep. Rick Nolan, believes morality should be reflected in our politics.
“I talk about a moral economy,” she said, “and having our federal budget match our values.”
Those values, in Kennedy’s view, include a sincere desire to rebuild the struggling middle class by providing the kind of supports that make that possible. “To accomplish this goal, we need to increase wages and provide affordable benefits in our existing industries,” said Kennedy. “Raising the federal minimum wage and tying it to inflation is a start, but it’s not enough. We also need to address student debt, which keeps young families from succeeding and limits them from attending college or trade school in the first place.”
At the same time, she supports strengthening safety nets for working families, including providing affordable childcare, healthcare, housing, and fully-funded public education, including preschool. She’s also opposed to any attempt to privatize Social Security. “That’s paramount if we want our district to flourish,” she said.
She also sees the moral dimension in the recent revelations of serial sexual harassment by a former senior member of Rep. Nolan’s Washington staff. “It’s about how you act when no one is looking,” she said. Kennedy has had a close political relationship with Nolan and she said he’s always acted appropriately with her. Still, she said the recent revelation is no surprise, given the prevalence of the problem in society and she said she’s disappointed that the alleged offender, chief policy director Jim Swiderski, was not held accountable. “And we can’t say it’s fixed just because we’re having the conversation,” she said.
Kennedy puts much of the onus for a solution to the problem on men. “This isn’t a women’s issue, this is a man’s issue,” she said, and believes that progress will be possible only when men understand their role in the solution. Kennedy said that she’s had her own #MeToo moment in her life and says: “I’ll breathe fire to make sure an article like this never has to be written again.”
Unlike some of the other candidates in the race, Kennedy isn’t campaigning full-time. She continues to perform her duties as mayor and continues to work full-time for the non-profit Statewide Health Improvement Partnership. Her work has its own moral dimension, focusing, she said, on “how we take care of each other and allow everyone to live a life of dignity.”
It appears that much of her politics is grounded in that philosophy of caring, and it shows up in specific policy goals. She’s worked with veterans suffering from PTSD, which has exposed her to the substantial benefits of medical marijuana. And while doctors can legally prescribe the drug in Minnesota, Kennedy said veterans can potentially lose federal benefits if they test positive for marijuana use. That’s why she supports a change in federal law to allow the use…