ST. CLOUD -- The two candidates running for Stearns County Commissioner in District 1 were on the News @ Noon Show Wednesday for a candidate forum. Former State Representative Steve Gottwalt and former State Senator Tarryl Clark are running for the open seat being vacated by retiring commissioner DeWayne Mareck.

The issue of immigration came up during the debate. Gottwalt says it is something that needs to be discussed in a respectful way.

But we also have people out there who have a lot of questions and a lot of concerns, and they are frustrated that occasionally they get accused of being racist or bigoted because they raise those concerns.  So I think we need to be very respectful of the newcomers to our community, they deserve our respect, they deserve our representation, and we also need to be respectful of those who have questions and concerns.

Clark says new immigrants play an important role in our growing economy and community.

But also to develop those relationships.  Because whether your family has been here for generations and you're proud and a little nervous about what the future is going to be, or you're raising children who fled oppression and violence, we should all have a role in how we make our community an even better place to live.

Both Gottwalt and Clark agree the county commissioners can play a role in getting the correct information about new immigrants out to the residents.

Both candidates say their first challenge is to explain to voters the role that county government and county commissioners play in their day-to-day lives.

District 1 is from the Mississippi River on the east to the west side of St. Cloud and from County Road 120 to the north through the St. Cloud State University campus.

The General election is on November 6th.