Green, GOP Congressional candidates could hardly be more different

An HIV-positive gay man who wants to eliminate insurance companies versus a man who wants to ban gay marriage and roll back healthcare regulations

Daniel Mathias, 39, said he struggles to make ends meet; as an independent delivery driver, he cannot afford health insurance for his wife and nine kids, all 15 and under.

Mathias is also the Republican-endorsed candidate who is challenging incumbent Democrat Martin Sabo for the 5th District Congressional seat, which includes Southwest and all of Minneapolis. If elected, Mathias said he wants fewer government insurance-coverage mandates to lower premiums costs.

"Maybe it is the ostrich approach, but I tend not to think about it," Mathias said about not having health insurance. "For the most part, we have had healthy kids, and my wife and I have been fairly healthy."

Mathias stands in stark contrast to the race's other challenger -- Green Party endorsee Jay Pond.

A gay man, Pond has been HIV-positive for 12 years, though medications let him lead an active life, he said. He is a long-distance bike rider and runs Two Turtles video production company from his Lowry Hill East (Wedge) home.

If elected, Pond would push for a single-payer universal healthcare system, with government effectively eliminating insurance companies, Pond said. "I would like to cut the middle man out. I don't think the health insurance industry is providing a service to our country."

As much as they differ from each other, Mathias and Pond have one thing in common: they are outsiders compared to Sabo. The 13-termer is a senior member on the House Appropriations Committee and is the highest-ranking Democrat on its Homeland Security subcommittee.

(Sabo was profiled last month in the Southwest Journal.)

Backgrounds

Mathias has a B.A. in Jewish and Ancient Near East Studies from the University of Minnesota and studied at Portland, Ore.'s Western Evangelical Seminary. He lives near Lake Nokomis and teaches biblical Greek and Hebrew in an unaccredited religious teaching program at the Straitgate Church, 638 Franklin Ave. E.

His children attend Holy Family, a St. Louis Park Catholic school, he said. The family can afford it because his wife is a parish member and the church provides subsidies to members.

Mathias has worked all his life in the transportation industry, including warehouses and courier services, he said. The "experiences of struggling to make ends meet" would give him a unique perspective in Congress. "Partly it is the choices we've made. You have to make sacrifices for what you want to do and things you believe in," he said.

Pond has an MBA from Glendale, Ariz.-based Thunderbird, the Garvin School of International Management. He worked for Japanese-based Rabex as vice president of U.S. properties for three years between 1989-1992, he said, including overseeing the purchase of the bankrupt Breckenridge Hilton from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

His doctors told him to cut back on international travel in the early 1990s, after he became HIV-positive. He moved to Minneapolis to study video at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and he later moved to San Francisco to continue his studies.

Pond ran as the Green Party Congressional candidate against California Democrat Nancy Pelosi in 2002. Pelosi received 127,684, or 80 percent of the vote; Pond got 10,033 votes, or 6 percent. Pond moved back to Minneapolis in the spring of 2003.

Worlds apart

Sabo's two challengers have vastly different positions on most issues, from foreign affairs and road building to what makes a family.

Mathias backs President Bush's decision to attack Iraq, calling it "necessary" and "right." He is unfazed by the invasion's failure to find weapons of mass destruction, saying Saddam Hussein "got rid of them, either by burying them in the desert somewhere or transferring them to Syria."

Pond supports an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and ongoing financial support to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by U.S. bombing. Pond also backs creating a Department of Peace -- "so nonviolence is always a part of the equation when we face foreign affairs problems."

Mathias supports a U.S. constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. He compared it to federal intervention that pressured Utah to outlaw polygamy before it became a state.

Pond traveled to Massachusetts in September to make a video of a friend's gay wedding.

If elected, Mathias would push to ensure gas taxes went to build more highways, not transit spending. "Currently in this metro area, we have more than enough transit going on," he said. "Where we are having problems is moving the cars back and forth."

This contrasts with Sabo, someone known as a behind-the-scenes player who has brought tens of millions in federal transit money to the metro area, including the recently opened Hiawatha Light Rail Transit Line.

Pond said he, too, would push for more transit money -- with a caveat that he is concerned for other districts that lack Sabo's legislative clout.

"Martin Sabo brings home the bacon well; that is pretty good," Pond said. "But if he is bringing home the bacon for our district, then other districts aren't getting what they need. We need to think more holistic -- what is better for our nation as a whole, rather than what may be good to get one bit of rail laid between here and the Mall [of America]."

One of Mathias' top five issues is education. His Web site said the solution to failing schools is not more money. "The biggest change needs to occur within the family, and that being the restoration of the traditional family with father, mother and their children."

That includes instilling the value of education, it said.

Pond's Web site does not mention education. One of his top three priorities is promoting wind power (an issue absent on Mathias' Web site.)

The U.S. has wind power-technology, but not the political will to pursue it, Pond said.

Salvos at Sabo

Mathias' critique of Sabo is a traditional Republican critique of Democrats. Government should be smaller, run fewer programs and charge less taxes, he said.

"Marty [Sabo] as a Democrat talks about helping people," he said. "The solution he comes up with is raising taxes on people who are wealthy, taking money from them and running it through a government bureaucracy and providing programs."

Charities are more efficient, he said.

However, Mathias and his family needed the help of MnCARE when his wife had a complicated birth. MnCARE is a state-run reduced-cost health coverage program primarily for families who do not have access to employer-subsidized insurance and cannot afford private insurance.

Pond took Sabo to task for not taking a stronger public antiwar stance.

"I am disappointed that Martin Sabo -- coming from such a liberal district and having such a safe seat -- isn't able to stand up daily and be against the war, or propose new ideas or a new vision for the direction our society could go," he said. "A lot of people are hungry for that. A lot of people want politics to wake up and give us a new vision."

Sabo's staff had no comment.

Horse race

The challengers face an uphill battle historically and financially.

Sabo has won election by wide margins, getting more than two-thirds of the vote in the past three elections. He defeated Mathias in 2002, 171,572 to 66,271, with Green candidate, Tim Davis, getting 17,825.

In the Sept. 14 primary, Sabo got 23,046 votes in a nominal challenge from DFLer Dick Franson. Mathias got 5,840 votes and Pond got 665 votes, though neither faced a primary challenge.

Sabo has raised $415,365 this election cycle and has $239,298 cash on hand, according to his campaign's Aug. 27 preprimary filings on the Federal Election Commission's Web site.

Mathias' campaign reported raising $11,330, with $2,030 cash on hand, according to its Sept. 9 filing. Until recently, Pond said his campaign had not raised $5,000, the number that triggers FEC filing requirements.