The lone declared Republican candidate in the special election for former Sen. Al Franken’s seat was in Winona on Tuesday morning.
State Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary’s Point, met with local business leaders and party members, touting her accomplishments in St. Paul and sharing how she would represent the state in Washington.
“I think people are frustrated with politicians,” Housley said in an interview at the Winona Daily News office. “They aren’t well liked right now. You vote someone into office, whether it’s city council, school board, state Legislature or a federal seat to get something done, and instead there’s so much arguing, fighting, bickering, partisan politics, people end up on the front page of the newspaper for something you did not send them there to do.”
Housley aligned herself with state Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, as someone who has built a reputation of being able to work across the aisles.
“They call us the sensibles because we can work both sides,” Housley said. “We also both represent swing districts, and Minnesota is a swing state.”
Housley touted her work on the Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee, which is chaired by Miller, and her experience as a small business owner.
She said the latest tax reform bill has helped owners of business both large and small.
“So many businesses are raising minimum wage on their own,” Housley said. “There are 250 companies in Minnesota that have given bonuses to workers.”
She said regulations are a “silent tax” and often keep businesses from creating jobs.
“It’s important to help businesses grow jobs,” she said.
As the chair of the state’s Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee, Housley has made it her mission to end elderly abuse. She helped bring together various stakeholders, from nursing home facilities to the AARP to state agencies and fellow legislators.
When the Legislature convenes Feb. 20, she plans to introduce a bill that clarifies rules regarding cameras placed in nursing home rooms, making sure families know when reports of abuse are filed, and preventing retaliation against those who file reports.
As a U.S. senator, Housley said she’d work to overhaul the way complaints are handled by the Office of Health Facilities Complaints.
“It’s 2018 and OHFC was still using a paper-based system,” Housley said. “Someone would call in a complaint and they would write it on a piece of paper and it would go in a folder and sit over there to the point where they would just throw them away.”
Housley wants to increase the department’s funding to upgrade their technology.
At the federal level, Housley wants to clarify an Obama administration-era change to the law on what facilities are required to report.
“It was a very gray change in the law,” Housley said. “Now our facilities are reporting everything. The scratch and the bruise are right there with the higher neglect reports.”
Housley has been touring the state on a listening session to hear concerns from nursing home patients and their families, who want this legislation to reflect their concerns.
At the end of the month, Housley will take them to St. Paul. Next year, she hopes to take them to Washington.
“They need a voice at every level,” Housley said. “I think bringing a voice of our Minnesota elder population to D.C. is important.”
Housley, a South St. Paul native, was elected to the state senate in 2012. She’s married to Phil Housley, a member of the hockey Hall of Fame and current coach of the Buffalo Sabres.
Housley, who still could face a challenger for the Republican nomination prior to the August primary, would face former Lt. Gov. Tina Smith in the general election. Smith was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to serve in the Senate after Franken resigned after allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior from multiple women.
The 2018 election cycle also includes the state’s other Senate seat, held by DFLer Amy Klobuchar, and an open race for governor.