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In Response: Smith a lifelong progressive, champion for Duluth

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I've had the opportunity to work with Sen. Tina Smith on many issues, first when she was lieutenant governor and now in her role as U.S. senator. In contrast to negative comments about Smith in the July 19 "Candidate's View" column, "Vote in primary to put out D.C. dumpster fire," I've always considered her a champion for Duluth, our region, and Minnesota.

Alan NetlandOn her first trip back to Minnesota as a new U.S. senator, Smith made it a priority to be with the people of Duluth. She met with retirees to talk about the pension crisis that's plaguing too many Minnesotans who have worked and saved their entire lives. She heard stories about their past jobs and retirement plans that were on hold. Then she went back to Washington and made sure our voices — Duluthians' voices — were heard. She started fighting for a solution that would allow the 22,000 retirees in Minnesota at risk of losing their pensions to live with the dignity, respect, and security they deserve.

Smith has been in the Senate for only about seven months, and she is doing a lot more than working on that one issue.

She's working to maintain the Duluth port as Minnesota's gateway to national and global trade. She's a member of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force where she strongly opposed President Donald Trump's proposed budget cuts that posed a risk to improvements made on invasive species in the region, pollution reduction, drinking-water quality, and economic development. And she's working to increase funding for programs that help cities like Duluth address the lack of affordable housing.

It's simple: Minnesotans deserve a senator who works every day on the issues that matter to them, and that's exactly what Sen. Smith is doing.

She's leading the fight against the big pharmaceutical companies to help make health care more affordable by lowering the cost of medicine. This was the subject of the first bill she introduced. In addition, she pushed the CEOs of some of the largest pharmaceutical companies to tell us what they were doing with the big windfalls they got from the Republican tax bill. She's working with her colleague, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, to increase access to mental health services for Minnesotans by making them available in our schools. And she's trying to get the necessary resources to combat the opioid crisis. Just to name a few actions.

Sen. Smith's hard work on behalf of Northlanders is in stark contrast to what was written in the July 19 commentary in the News Tribune by Richard Painter, her DFL opponent in the Aug. 14 primary. A lifelong Republican who worked in President George W. Bush's White House and decided last minute to run in the DFL primary, Painter, a lawyer and professor, seems focused only on himself and his opposition to the president. That is not the job of a U.S. senator.

Furthermore, Painter has spent his adult life supporting Republicans and fighting for Republican causes. He and President Donald Trump's new Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh worked together in the Bush White House. They also both worked to get Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Robert Alito confirmed to the Supreme Court — two conservative justices who have never hesitated to roll back the progressive values our country fought for over many decades. Those rollbacks have hamstrung the rights of public unions, have allowed corporations to spend unlimited money on politics, and have eviscerated the Voting Rights Act.

At the same time Painter was helping to solidify and make more extreme the Supreme Court's conservative majority, Smith was working and volunteering to further our progressive values. She had been for more than a decade.

I am voting for Sen. Smith on Aug. 14 in the DFL primary. I trust her to continue to put Duluthians, our region, and all Minnesotans first in the United States Senate.

Alan Netland of Duluth is president of the Northeast Area Labor Council.

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