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Candidate Fernsler focuses on health, education

Keith Fernsler (Submitted photo)

Keith Fernsler is a District 37 Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives who is focused on improving education, health care and the community.

The retired Dickinson State University professor wants to ensure that schools receive the funding they need.

Fernsler says under the current budget, Dickinson State was requested to cut its budget by 15-18 percent, a decision with which he doesn't agree.

"If we want this college to provide our future in professions and in vocational work and leaders in our communities, it has to have support," he said. "It has to have the resources and the budget to be able to do that."

Instead of the 15-18 percent budget cuts to DSU and other service agencies and institutions, he said they should "set some kind of priority in terms of what needs to be funded at what levels."

Affordability and availability of child care also are a priority of the candidate. He said that the cost of child care in North Dakota makes it difficult for families to afford, and there are not enough child care centers.

"In almost every community in North Dakota, the space available is less than the demand," Fernsler said.

He also makes affordability and availability of health care a priority. Part of that is aimed toward people with pre-existing conditions. The Comprehensive Health Association of North Dakota, or CHAND, is too expensive, he said.

"The premiums begin at almost $360 a month for somebody less than 18 years of age," said Fernsler. From there, it steadily increases to about $15,000 a year, he said.

"It's nice that they have (CHAND), but it's not affordable," he added. "Often people who have pre-existing conditions don't have huge incomes."

Fernsler, who is involved in his community through various organizations including First Congregational Church-UCC where he sings in the choir and serves on the council, North Dakota United, Dickinson Area Library Foundation Board and Happy Sing Along Singers, wants to build Dickinson's social services, which he suggested haven't been addressed by Republicans as much as the physical aspects of the community.

"We need to build the communities and make them as strong as possible, and that's not just roads and physical infrastructure," he said. "It also means that we need Badlands Human Service Center; we need social services; we need addiction, mental health and behavioral service programs, and we need to have those be local."

Fernsler said he's running to help Legislature move away from one party rule. Fernsler and fellow Democrat Fern Pokorny are campaigning against incumbent Republicans Mike Lefor and Vicky Steiner.

"There's only about a quarter of the representatives who can watch what's going on with the three-quarters who are in charge," he said. "One party can't police itself from bad policy and bad behavior. We need a loyal opposition. That has to reach a critical mass in order to start building good relationships across party lines."

The way to move away from the supermajority, he said, is to vote in more Democrats.

"(Democrats) failed to provide credible candidates for several elections, but this time it's different. ... Now, for this election, the voters have a choice."

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