Emmons County Record - Sen. Tim Mathern Campaigns in County
State Sen. Tim Mathern of Fargo, the Democratic-NPL candidate for Governor, campaigned in Emmons County on Friday.
He said growing up on a farm near Edgeley and having roots in Emmons County have kept him sensitive to rural issues at a time when the State Legislature is increasingly dominated by lawmakers from the larger cities, namely Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks and Minot.
"I tell people that there would be no Fargo or Bismarck without farmers and small town people," Mathern said. "Preserving and enhancing the rural economy benefits all of North Dakota, not just farmers and rural communities."
He said he is concerned that there are so few young people involved in farming, and he would like to see more done to stabilize and build family farm agriculture.
Mathern, contrasting himself to Republican incumbent Gov. John Hoeven, said North Dakota needs better state leadership to develop wind energy. He said North Dakota is running behind other states in the region, noting that Minnesota has three times more wind energy than North Dakota.
He argued that a "limited vision" hurts alternative energy development whether it be wind or bio-fuels.
"Developing wind energy and bio-fuels would re-population rural North Dakota," Mathern said.
He favors farmer- or community-owned wind towers so that the money from the sale of electricity stays in the community rather than going to out-of-state corporations.
Mathern said he would provide the leadership to get North Dakota more involved in ethanol production.
"We are way behind other states," Mathern said. "For every step we take (in ethanol development), Minnesota takes 10."
He said transmission lines must be built to carry the electricity produced at wind farms, and he vowed to work with other states to expand the electrical grid to created "super highways" of transmission lines to get North Dakota-produced electricity to where the demand is.
As an example, he said a line from North Dakota to Chicago would create a corridor that would benefit energy producers in the state and consumers in metro-Chicago.
Mathern chairs the Right-to-Life Caucus in the State Senate.
He represents a legislative district where the Republicans out-number the Democrats. He has been elected since 1986.
"My opposition to abortion and willingness to work with Republicans to get things done for North Dakota have made me successful in my district and, I believe, give me a reasonable chance of being elected Governor," Mathern said.
Mathern said many North Dakotans, including Democrats, oppose abortion. He noted that the District 28 Democrats running for the legislature share his position. They are Senate candidate Alan Bergman of Jud and House of Representatives candidates Isadore Gross of Kintyre and Kristen Vetter of Linton.
Mathern said the Hoeven Administration is not lowering taxes because it is shifting more of the burden to property taxes, which is said are becoming "confiscatory."
He said the state's $1.2 billion surplus should be used, in part, for property tax relief. He cited numbers in some parts of the state where property taxes on a residence have increased by nearly 48 percent in less than 10 years.
"Property taxes are to the point that people are being driven out of the state, and the housing market is being affected," Mathern said.
Mathern said he would like to see the budget surplus used in three general categories:
Repair infrastructure. Highways, bridges, local schools and college and other public buildings are in need of upgrades and, in some cases, replacement, according to Mathern.
Tax situation. Mathern wants taxes reduced for the middle class rather than for "the millionaires" and out-of-state corporations like Walmart, which is headquartered in Arkansas.
"It's the people who live in North Dakota and own homes and small businesses who should benefit," Mathern said.
Future possibilities. Mathern would like to see improvements in health insurance for children and college tuition rebates for North Dakota students attending schools in the state. He likes the idea of incentives, such as tuition rebates, for students to stay in North Dakota after they graduate.
Mathern, who is Director of Public Policy for Prairie St. John's Hospital in Fargo, is a member of the Long Term Care Committee of the State Senate as well as the Appropriations, Tribal and State Relatives and Budget Committees.
"We have 34 rural hospitals in North Dakota, and 27 of them are losing money," Mathern said, noting that he is impressed by the turn-around of the Linton Hospital which has moved at least slightly into the black.
Mathern said he would like to see a revolving loan fund to help lower the interest hospitals have to pay on their debt.
A member of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences Board, Mathern would like to see more incentives to help young people who go into the health care field and to encourage them to stay in North Dakota.
Emmons County roots
Mathern is the son of the late John J. and Christina (Wolf) Mathern, who started out in the St. Michael's community and moved as a young couple to Edgeley in 1945 where they raised their 13 children.
Legislative candidate Isadore Gross is his mother's first cousin, and he is related to candidate Kristen Vetter's husband, Andrew.
Mathern noted that his mother attended high school in Linton and spent winters in town so that she could make it to school.
"My mother quit school before she graduated, but she was hired as a country school teacher because she had been to high school," Mathern said.
He said 20 years later she would still use her box of supplies from her brief teaching days to entertain her own children.
Mathern said he was the first in his family to attend college, and his dad wondered why anyone would want to go to college.
When Mathern was awarded a grant to pursue his Master's Degree at the University of Nebraska, he dad questioned why he would do it. "You've already been to college," John Mathern told his son.
Mathern's first venture into politics was in 1984 when he ran for the State House of Representatives. He lost. His dad, who usually said little, called him and told him, "You lost. Now you know something for next time."
Mathern was elected to the State Senate in 1986, and the Democrats had a one-seat majority under Gov. George Sinner, the state's last Democrat to serve in that position.
"Dad died earlier in 1986, before I was elected," Mathern said. "That was tough on me."
While the margins were not always huge, he has been elected six times to the State Senate, and his current term expires in 2010. However, Mathern hopes he will get to leave the Senate after the November election and move into the Governor's residence in Bismarck.