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Trump's approach to trade with China 'detrimental to North Dakota,' Mac Schneider says

Mac Schneider, the endorsed Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from North Dakota, speaks Tuesday, June 5, 2018, to Herald editorial staff. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Anyone who is for less trade is for fewer farmers, according to Democrat Mac Schneider.

"North Dakota is an exporting state," he said Tuesday during a Herald editorial board meeting. "We have to maintain those markets if we want to maintain our economy."

The Grand Forks attorney is running against Republican Kelly Armstrong as they seek North Dakota's lone seat in the House of Representatives, an office held by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.

Schneider described himself as a North Dakota independent who wants to focus on issues that affect North Dakotans' pocketbooks, including Medicaid, creating jobs in the state, and working in a bipartisan fashion to reduce the national debt.

"Let somebody else deal with these hot-button issues that have really bogged our country down in partisanship," he said.

Schneider, a former minority leader in the North Dakota Senate who represented Grand Forks, lost his seat in 2016 to Republican Curt Kreun, a loss the Democrat blamed on low voter turnout.

A potential trade war with China has been a talking point in the race as President Donald Trump threatens tariffs against the country that imports a large amount of soybeans from North Dakota. China also has said it would place its own tariffs on U.S. products, including soybeans.

Schneider criticized Armstrong's support of Trump's approach. He said there are more efficient ways to crack down on "rule-breakers" like China and the U.S. should work more closely with allies, including Canada, Mexico and the European Union. The administration needs to back down on its tariff threats and regroup with its allies.

"My opponent has been speaking favorably about the administration's approach to trade," he said of Armstrong. "I see it as detrimental to North Dakota."

Farmers are watching developments regarding trade closely, Armstrong said Tuesday. He said the ag producers he has spoken to agree they need better trade deals.

"But I've said since the start of my campaign, we cannot let North Dakota producers be pawns in a drawn-out trade war," Armstrong said.

Armstrong, who agreed he is a Trump Republican, disputed Schneider's claims that the Democrat is an independent. North Dakotans want an effective leader "they can trust to vote in line with North Dakota values," he said.

"You can call yourself whatever you want, but he has a liberal voting record," Armstrong said. "The people in his own district saw through the rhetoric, and so will the people of North Dakota."

Schneider said he is pitching himself as the practical candidate who will work with Democrats and Republicans. He also wants to see new leadership in the House, adding he would not vote for Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to her position of the Democratic Party's leader in the chamber.

"I think North Dakotans more than anything are practical and they want someone who will work together to find common ground and advance this country," Schneider said.

When asked whether Trump has done anything to warrant impeachment and the prospect of that happening should Democrats gain control of Congress, Schneider said the president has a presumption of innocence like anyone else in the country. The investigation is ongoing, he said, adding he is waiting for all the facts to come out before he makes a decision on the president.

"When it comes to that issue, I just don't see the evidence at this point time," he said, and discussions on that matter are "woefully out of place."

"I'm not running against President Trump. I'm running for North Dakota."

Schneider is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination, while Armstrong faces two other Republicans in the in the June 12 primary. Tiffany Abentroth of Cummings, N.D., and Paul Schaffner of Minot also are running as Republicans.

State Sen. Tom Campbell of Grafton, N.D., will appear on the Republican primary ballot, but he ended his campaign in April.

The winners from each party will move on to the November general election.

Cramer is giving up his seat in the House to run for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, who is seeking re-election.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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