2014 is an election year in Minnesota, and Examiner.com is sitting down with some of the candidates for key races so that the voters will be able to make informed decisions. The next in this series is a phone interview with congressional candidate Paula Overby, the Independence Party nominee for Minnesota’s Second District
Overby is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. She has a BA in Psychology with a second major in computer science. She spent several years providing community based mental health services. Most of her career has been as a data analyst with a focus on quality assurance. She has two daughters and a son, all of whom are grown.
We spoke with Overby in a phone interview regarding her run for United States Congress.
Why are you running for office?
Principally for the reason that I see a lot of dysfunction in Washington. I see a lot of migration of wealth. We need a voice that represents people that I don’t feel our two party system does. I started with the DFL [Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party] because it seemed like a really progressive movement. It didn’t work out that way, you can see my website for more details on that.
What are your qualifications?
I believe my legal experience, work experience, and social experience all help me understand the issues. I’m a QA data analyst, which means I focus on process. We need more of that in congress. I think we have too many lawyers that aren’t really examining the social consequences of policies. I spent four years in court representing myself to gain custody of my son, I have a strong background with domestic violence and abuse. My first career was with mental health clients. The value of that is that it gives me a social perspective rather than a legal perspective. We need more of that in Washington. Law is important to our society but when it comes to recognizing the difference between a person and a legal construct like a corporation the law is clearly failing us. A major part of my campaign focus is the excessive migration of wealth, diminishing middle class, increase in poverty, and the major increase in corporate profits.
Third party candidates have a reputation for being spoilers for the two major parties. Do you agree with this assessment?
I totally disagree with that. I believe third parties tend to bring out people who would typically not vote for either party. My own situation is that I will draw votes from both sides. I’m appealing to the disenfranchised, those people who see the disfunction in our two party system. Of course the party that loses will blame the independent candidate which reinforces people’s apprehension about voting for a third party.
Why do you think that you have a better chance than past third party candidates?
First of all, I’m the only third party candidate in our district. The Independence Party is a major party in Minnesota, so I’m a lot more visible to start with. I think the Independence Party has a unique focus with respect to how government should be and should function. Visit this webpage for the core values of the Independence party
Same-sex marriage appears to be heading toward legalization in most states. What is your stance on the issue?
I supported it. I was very active in promoting it as a social right. I don’t see that the government has a role to intervene in that relationship. There remain broader issues within our changing family structure which fails to address domestic partnerships and kinship relationships
If elected, how will you ensure that the LGBTQ community will gain equal rights?
I think they’ve been quite successful with that. A lot of focus has to do with rights under the Constitution, something that’s not well understood by a lot of people. The rights granted by legislation and the rights that are inalienable to citizens. The government has recognized corporations as having the rights of a person, contrast that with the failure to pass the ERA and women don’t have rights as people. The Gay Lesbian community is gaining rights under the Constitution. I’m transgender. Transgender addresses much broader issues of civil rights.That fact alone will have an enormous impact on our culture. Changing our culture is what it’s really all about.
What is your opinion on oil fracking?
The technology is safe, but the reality of it is that there are spills, _chemicals going into the atmosphere and older wells leaking into groundwater. The environmental issues are not being adequately monitored and controlled. In general, I support a much stronger initiative toward renewable energy and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies which are obsolete. If we could stop the subsidies the renewable energy industry would grow much faster.
Do you support an increase in alternative forms of energy, including green energy such as solar and wind?
Yes, definitely. There’s a big potential for enormous job growth. This is what we need in this country more than anything. A focus on economic development seems to be lacking in the political discussion. . I would certainly be a strong advocate for it with our representatives. I don’t believe they are giving the public accurate or adequate information. I wonder if many of our representatives are even capable of reading the scientific reports, they seem to be in conflict with most of the scientific community. Advocates of those issues are supported by data. I will submit legislation where it is appropriate, and supporting legislation with those goals.
Do you support the legalization of marijuana?
I’m in favor of ending prohibition, which I guess would be the same as saying I support legalization. Apart from civil liberties there are significant social benefits, tax revenues, reduced enforcement costs, medical benefits and better control of access by minors. I also am a big advocate of hemp production, there’s a tremendous potential for crop and energy production. I’m generally opposed to the war on drugs as it stands today. It undermines the third world,and is largely responsible for the refugee problem in the Southwest. It’s a public health issue, it needs to be treated that way.
Do you have any any lasting concerns about the regulation or safety of marijuana?
There are always concerns. There are concerns about traffic safety. There are concerns about children overdosing, though there is no real hard evidence of that. That's an advantage really, we can regulate accessibility to young children. Right now we have virtually no control over that despite what people are claiming. The reality is it’s a safe drug, especially compared to alcohol and the damage it causes in our culture. The reality is it's a very safe drug, especially when compared to alcohol and the damage it causes in our society.
What is your opinion on gun rights?
I support the right to keep and bear arms. Gun violence, violence in general, is a public health issue. There’s an acute amount of violence that has nothing to do with drugs. My background in domestic violence show that it’s not a gun issue. There’s little to be gained in trying to promote gun restrictions people are after. The majority of gun deaths are from suicides. We need to provide a far better mental health system in our country, help people deal with their issues. That will deal with violence far more than trying to control guns. I also don’t view open carry laws and any reasonable defense to violence and I support restrictions is public places. This is not necessarily a legislative issue.
What action, if any, will you take with regard to the Affordable Care Act?
I think it’s progress. It definitely needs to be improved. I generally support a single payer system, something similar to what we have with Medicare in terms of basic protections. Beyond that it does have some extensions of Medicare to low income people. Here in Minnesota in particular we had problems with the software. There is definitely room for improvement and I think the data is still out on a lot of that. In theory it’s supposed to give people access to regular health care services, so we need to concentrate on that and reassess the issue to make responsible decisions about where to move forward and make improvements.
Do you support school choice in the form of vouchers?
That’s an issue I need to research. It kind of relates to “separate but equal” in terms of who’s capable of using those vouchers and how that’s going to impact the quality of our education system.
Do you support an increase in the minimum wage?
Yes I do, I don’t see that ultimately as a solution to inequality of wealth and income in this country, or particularly a solution to poverty. The real focus, in my mind, in terms of economics and wages is a living wage. That would increase the economic viability of our community, I see stronger investment in small business and independent farming. We’re placing too much emphasis on corporate profits and suppressing wages.
How would you handle the current immigration crisis?
I see the impasse that exists in Washington right now. On the issue that we shut down the border and stop immigration, I tend not to see that as a solution. If we build a fence it’ll be like the
Great Wall of China, we’re going to be embarrassed of it at some point. Providing a path to citizenship, providing meaningful work for the people here, these will improve our economy. One part of immigration reform that should get a lot more emphasis is addressing how we’re impacting the economies of those countries and cultures where people are coming from. That’s where we need to focus our effort. Finally, we need to take a more humanistic approach. How we’re approaching immigration reform goes after working immigrants. We need to go after companies that are hiring illegal workers. They are exploiting the workers and suppressing their wages. In my district in Minnesota at least people are well in favor of immigration reform. The farms are very eager to have more immigrant workers. There are jobs left unfilled and there are people who want those jobs, Congress is preventing that.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
A major agenda for me is campaign finance reform. If we’re not going to have public financing of campaigns we need to have a better way of funding them. It’s important to have people run for office. We’re not going to have citizen government if it’s completely dominated by wealth. We definitely need more than two parties. Demographics in this district are evenly split between rural and urban. People are dividing along those lines and one of the most underrepresented groups in our political process are the rural groups.