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Republican incumbent Tom Emmer faces a challenge from DFL candidate Tawnja Zahradka in the race to represent the 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Emmer’s website is emmerforcongress.com.

Zahradka’s website is tawnjaforcongress.com.

The candidates responded to a questionnaire from the Minnesota Newspaper Association. Their responses to select questions are included below.

Tom Emmer

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Tom Emmer

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

I have served as the Representative of the Sixth Congressional District since 2015. In January of 2019, I was elected Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and currently lead Republican campaign efforts to regain a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to serving in Congress, I served in the Minnesota House of Representatives, representing district 19B for six years. My wife Jacquie and I have seven children and we live in Delano, Minnesota.

If elected, what is your top priority for the 2021 Congress? Why are you running for office?

My priorities for the 2021 Congress will remain focused on helping every Minnesotan access the opportunities they need to be in the best position to succeed. This includes working to rebuild our economy and create jobs, continue to push Congress and the Administration to reduce the federal debt and deficit, and ensure the safety and security of the American people. It is an honor to represent the citizens of Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District and is a responsibility I do not take lightly. I will continue to push for policies that will benefit my constituents in Minnesota and continue to bring their ideas for change to Washington.

How do you grade the federal government’s response to the pandemic? Are additional measures necessary to spur the economy? If so, what?

COVID-19 continues to have an unprecedented impact on our economy. In the early days of the outbreak, Congress acted swiftly to adopt legislation to support the thousands of businesses and millions of employees in need of assistance. Efforts to establish programs like the Paycheck Protection Program, though not perfect, were stood-up in record time and provided billions in federal relief to thousands of Minnesota businesses. Looking ahead, additional federal support for key sectors of our economy may be needed, however I remain wary of new, multi-trillion dollar spending packages filled with federal mandates that are not targeted to the areas of specific need, rather seek to serve a political agenda. We must continue to direct spending to our teachers and small business owners while providing employers the legal protections they need to safely re-open and encourage their employees to return to work. The actions of the federal government were needed to steer our economy through this crisis, however federal stimulus should not be looked at as a means to supplant the hard work of American businesses and entrepreneurs.

Police reform has become center stage since the George Floyd death and has prompted calls for legislative action at all levels of government. What actions do you support at the federal level?

The death of George Floyd was unacceptable and those responsible must be held accountable.

I’m working to bring Minnesota-inspired concepts to the national level to improve the way law enforcement engages in the communities they serve. I introduced the Community OutPost (COP) Outreach and Engagement Act (H.R. 7245) to promote the nationwide use of the Community OutPosts to improve community policing. Modeled after the success of the St. Cloud Police Department’s “COP House,” this legislation provides federal resources to promote engagement between local law enforcement officers and the community members they serve. I have also introduced the Abby Honold Act (H.R. 4720) to improve the way law enforcement officers interview victims of sexual assault. Introduced after learning of Abby Honold’s experience with trauma-informed interview techniques following her sexual assault at the University of Minnesota, this legislation promotes the inclusion of trauma-informed training to all law enforcement officers and directs the U.S. Department of Justice to invest in these programs nationwide. These are just two examples of ways I am working to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the people they’re sworn to protect without defunding, dismantling, or demonizing the thousands of hardworking men and women in blue.

Immigration reform continues to languish at the federal level. What should be the principles of any legislation?

America is both a nation of immigrants and of laws. We need to remain the land of opportunity in order to attract the best and brightest minds from around the world. We also must be a home to those who would seek to legally immigrate here for the promise of a better life. However, we must also have a secure border and enforce the rule of law to ensure the survival of our nation. Any agreement reached at the federal level must contain a balance between security and opportunity.

Is the United States doing enough to reduce carbon emissions? What can the federal government do to promote homegrown energy?

Minnesotans understand better than most just how delicate the balance is between maintaining our state’s abundant natural resources and encouraging economic output and growth. The Sixth Congressional District is home to many different sources of energy, including the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant. Minnesota is also home to one of the nation’s leading solar energy producers, a second-to-none biofuels industry, and is home to innovative new approaches to energy like biomass and biocrude. When it comes to energy production, I will continue to work in Congress to foster an approach that utilizes our abundant and available resources while reducing our dependence on foreign sourced energy. With the great advancements we have made, America will remain a world leader in energy production and exports.

Do you support the president’s actions on international trade? Long term, will they help or hurt the U.S. economy?

Trade agreements are critical to driving our nation’s economic growth, creating high-paying jobs, and protecting consumers. President Trump took important steps to improve one of our foundational trade agreements with the replacement of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). USMCA presents numerous new opportunities for Minnesota’s farmers, producers and manufacturers, is expected to generate more than $68 billion in new economic activity, and create more than 175,000 new American jobs. I have long been a proponent of establishing new free trade agreements in an effort to expand our export opportunities, and I support efforts that utilize trade as a means to hold actors like China accountable for rampant intellectual property theft and years of unfair trading practices.

Tawnja Zahradka

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Tawnja Zahradka

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

Tawnja is a University Of North Dakota Communications Graduate, a 25-year Minnesota Business Owner, a Survivor of Workplace Discrimination, a Passionate Environmental Activist, and an Equal Rights Advocate. Tawnja Accepts No Corporate PAC, Fossil Fuel or Big Pharma Campaign Money. Tawnja is National & Local AFLCIO Endorsed.

If elected, what is your top priority for the 2021 Congress? Why are you running for office?

I look at it this way, if we don’t have our health, we don’t have anything. The physical and financial health of the country, planet and individuals are intertwined and create the platform for all other issues to be resolved. Without a healthy population and planet, we are severely weakened and without financial stability, we have few tools to deal with these or any other problems which beset us. My top priority would therefore be the stabilization of this country through efficient management of our resources, both physical and financial, which cannot be accomplished without a comprehensive plan to harness and rein in this Pandemic. We need a cohesive, “one for all, all for one” approach which unites rather than divides, facilitates the return to caring for rather than attacking one another. We further need to streamline our approach and seal up loopholes which allow billionaires to apply for programs meant to help small business and individuals in need, absconding with our tax dollars for their own greed. They should also be made to return any money they inappropriately procured in this manner.

I am running for Congress because I am sick and tired of the imbalance and inequality in all facets of today’s society. Women should not continue to make .21 cents less on the dollar, the blue-collar worker who puts in a full day of work should be able to enjoy the basics of life, healthcare, food security, and an affordable, safe place to live. People of all races, creeds and religions should enjoy the same freedoms and protections that our Constitution mandates.

How do you grade the federal government’s response to the pandemic? Are additional measures necessary to spur the economy? If so, what?

Our federal government’s response is the epitome of failure, thus my F grade. Americans comprise 4% of the global population yet have 25% of the Covid-19 cases. America needs a coherent, cohesive united approach to expediate the control of this virus and put it behind us, not political disinformation, confusing rhetoric, and divisive language. We need to follow science-based facts to attain a solution to end the pandemic. Adequate, timely rebuilding of our economy requires efficient spending, managing our assistance programs with targeted recipients in mind. We need to make sure those who would fall through the cracks are taken care of and nobody is left behind as well as abolition and steep penalties for wealthy opportunistic corporations and individuals who raid and abuse assistance programs. I believe there is enough money to carry people through this health crisis, stimulate the economy and come out the other side in good shape. We need to monitor our dollars closely and not allow a single taxpayer dollar to be unaccounted for by our Congress. No president should have unfettered power to funnel Federal funds to himself and his cronies.

Police reform has become center stage since the George Floyd death and has prompted calls for legislative action at all levels of government. What actions do you support at the federal level?

George Floyd’s death is an unthinkable tragedy and the collective heart of Minnesota aches for this man and his family. Sadly, this is not the first black eye Minnesota has endured in the National spotlight, but it must be the last. Unfortunately, terminology in the police reform effort has been greatly misunderstood. Language about police de-funding has been widely disseminated as an end to policing. No reasonable person, including myself, would ever lobby for abolishing the police department or abdicating the responsibility of government to protect their citizenry from harm or provide crisis assistance and intervention. This assistance costs money, of course, and that money should be provided. Once again, we must ensure that these funds are used prudently, that the human beings in that department fully understand the purpose of their jobs and have a disposition and mindset to honor their commitment to that aim. There must be a ready remedy for corruption within police departments, no matter the seniority, and a mindset within the culture that encourages mass disapproval of bullying and abuse of power. Incentives should be based on the ability to work with the community, de-escalate situations peacefully, and treat all people humanely to gain respect from those they serve rather than awarding raises based on arrest numbers. The goal should be common respect and courtesy for and by the police. I believe we can all agree on that.

Immigration reform continues to languish at the federal level. What should be the principles of any legislation?

This is a question that should be answered with our heart every bit as much as our mind. First and foremost, every decision needs to be put to this one litmus test: Is it humane? As a country of immigrants, it would be hypocritical to approach it any other way. I have some innovative ideas in this arena. I think applicants should be paired with the needs of the farms who rely on their labor, up front, not under the table. I believe that farmers should register with the border processors, letting them know their needs and capacity to care for and provide housing for workers. We could quickly streamline the immigration process in this manner while meeting the needs of our food suppliers. It would be a win/win for all of us and people would not have to live in the shadows. This is only one scenario. Of course, there are other industries who rely on this labor, jobs Americans don’t generally want to do. Even our president hires approximately 75 undocumented workers every year for seasonal work. Let’s stop pretending we don’t need them and give them dignity while they do necessary work. Further, with proof of productivity and a history of being good stewards of our country and our principles, there should be a path to citizenship for those who make our country better. Our decisions should be based on capacity and need rather than demonization. I have a lot more great ideas for how immigrants could revive our abandoned factories and ghost towns, taking the decaying remains of these communities and making them beautiful again, restoring purpose to these towns while bringing back manufacturing to our own country.

Is the United States doing enough to reduce carbon emissions? What can the federal government do to promote homegrown energy?

I feel that we were on the right track in reducing carbon emissions but have taken a giant step backward during this administration. We have critical work to do and no time to waste. We are in trouble whether we recognize it or not and the failure to acknowledge the state of this planet is at our peril. I think we need to quit giving huge subsidies to oil companies and other fossil fuel industries. Providing actual corporate welfare for those who make more money than any other industry in the history of the world makes no sense. Instead, we need to reward innovation and give farmers and laborers the tools and financial backing to expand into the clean energies of the future, giving them a base of income that would sustain them through leaner market years. Further, we need to ensure a smooth transition for workers who may lose their jobs because of the changing demand in the energy sector. Minnesota miners should not lose one day of income while their job transitions. They should be paid while in training for a new job which expands their skill set, increases their income, and improves their own outlook for good health and the health of our planet.

Do you support the president’s actions on international trade? Long term, will they help or hurt the U.S. economy?

We definitely needed an overhaul in our International Trade practices, but our president has done more damage than good. The theft of our intellectual property by China and others is inexcusable and should be stopped as a precedent to further trade relations. However, we do no good by insulting and demonizing those we wish to trade with. We need to come to the trade table with good will. We need to stop thinking in absolutes as the world is no longer a place where we can live in isolation. We need each other and like all relationships, we can work out better solutions when we approach our partners with warm and welcoming attitudes, even as we let them know we are savvy and no fools.

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