Forum highlights differences between District 43B candidates

Minnesota House District 43B candidates Leon Lillie and Rachael Bucholz participated in a candidate forum Sept. 4, hosted by the Roseville Area League of Women Voters. submitted photo

The Roseville Area League of Women Voters held a candidate forum Sept 4 for the candidates running for the Minnesota House District 43B seat.

The district includes North St. Paul, Oakdale north of 10th Street and Maplewood precincts 10 and 11.

While DFL incumbent Leon Lillie and Republican candidate Rachael Bucholz both said they support local schools, recognized the opioid crisis as one of Minnesota’s most urgent problems and noted a need to invest in state infrastructure, their positions differed significantly on health care, the state bonding bill  and gun control.

Lillie, who is seeking his eighth term, is the brother of Lillie Suburban Newspapers co-publisher Ted Lillie. Bucholz is a committee legislative assistant for agriculture in the Minnesota House of Representatives.


Health care

When asked how the Minnesota government should help reduce the high cost of health care, Lillie said he supports a universal health care system. Universal health care systems are designed to ensure all residents have access to health care without that care causing financial hardship.

“I just think it’s a moral right that everybody should have health care,” said Lillie, adding that when people, like the working poor, receive health care they cannot pay for, taxpayers end up paying that expense anyway.

He also noted that he believes universal health care is pro-business and would “level the playing field for everyone.”

Bucholz explained that while she agrees that people should have access to affordable health care, she does not believe universal health care is the best way to achieve that.

“I personally just don’t trust that the government is the best option that’s going to deliver that,” she said.

Instead, she described a need to keep pharmacy benefit managers from getting in the way of people receiving medications prescribed by their doctors, and a need to potentially streamline the mandates that insurance companies are required to provide.


Bonding bill

When asked how she would decide the size of the next bonding bill, Bucholz said she would be sure to invest in infrastructure, but that the Legislature needs to “stop looking at [the budget] as an unlimited credit card.”

Lillie countered that it takes money to make the changes needed in the area, including many of the changes discussed at the forum.

“In these last couple of years, we’ve achieved a AAA bonding rating,” he said. “What does that mean? You can borrow money that’s really cheap.”

He compared the bond rating to a good credit score when trying to buy a house, saying that when someone has a strong credit rating, they are able to purchase a home more easily and get a better rate on a mortgage.


Gun control

The candidates were also asked if they would support requiring background checks before someone can purchase a gun. 

Bucholz said she supports a background check requirement in some situations, though she had concerns as well.

Using her own family as an example, she said that her husband owns shotguns and when they hunt together, she borrows one of his guns. She said that he shouldn’t have to run a background check on his wife when they both have experience using and storing guns safely.

“We kind of need to draw a line on what is common sense,” Bucholz said. “When we start talking about private transactions, that can get pretty broad and pretty vague.”

However, she indicated that in some situations, like buying a gun from a store or from a seller on eBay, she would support background checks. 

“I think that there is some consensus that we can build on, but I also think that we need to be very careful that we’re not infringing on Second Amendment rights, either,” she said.

Lillie noted that there are some extreme “ban all guns” bills out there, though he did not indicate support for those. He did, however, say he supports “common sense stuff” like background checks.

“We all know somebody in our life that probably shouldn’t have a gun,” he said, listing potential examples as people with mental health issues, those who are at a bad point in their lives, who are going through a rough divorce or who have clearly shown they are hostile.

He added that for people who maybe shouldn’t have a gun, he would feel comfortable having a way to “somehow check in on that.”

“It gets tricky as far as how far you go, but I’m pretty comfortable with having some bookend,” Lillie concluded.


Other issues

In addition to health care, bonding and gun control, the two candidates said they had different priorities and approaches for a number of other topics that came up during the forum.

In addition to the opioid crisis, Lillie listed elder abuse, MNLARS vehicle registration issues and the education gap as other urgent problems Minnesotans face. 

Bucholz, who also listed the opioid crisis, included tax conformity, roads and bridges, education resources for struggling learners and support for teachers as the most urgent problems in Minnesota.

In response to another question, Bucholz said her priorities, if there should be a budget surplus, are lowering taxes, improving school security and saving money, though she added that she would ultimately listen to what her constituents want.

Lillie said he’d prioritize saving money, but also investing in children and their education.

When asked about his priorities for maintaining infrastructure, Lillie listed several area road projects that he has already helped find funding for, but ultimately said that road projects are very expensive and indicated that, in general, finding the funding is challenging.

In response to that same question, Bucholz said she was interested in potentially allowing an asphalt sealant made from soybean by-products to be tested on Minnesota roads, to see if it could possibly increase the lifespan of roads and bridges, making better use of the money the state does have.

On the topic of attracting and keeping businesses in Minnesota, Lillie said he felt the best approach was building companies from within Minnesota, rather than trying to encourage out-of-state businesses to move here. Bucholz focused her comments on the need to reduce taxes on businesses.

Bucholz said she does not support state funding for expanding access to pre-kindergarten and early childhood family education programs, but she does support scholarships for those programs. In contrast, Lillie said he supports funding expanded access to those programs.

Voters in House District 43B will have plenty to think about as they get ready to vote on Election Day, Nov. 6.


– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or

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