Address: 10642 184th CT NW, Elk River, MN 55330
Family: Engaged to Diane Nguyen, future stepson, Jadison
Education: University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN, BA: Major in History, Minor in English, 1996; Free Grace United College, Diploma in Biblical Studies, 2016
1. Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.
I own a small business in Elk River helping business owners with their online marketing. When I’m not working, I enjoy volunteering at church, muskie fishing, turkey and deer hunting. I’ve been a youth hockey and footfall coach in Elk River, and a past President of the Jaycees. I’m a past union member, CWA and UFCW, and I have participated in several affordable health care forums.
2. What is your biggest accomplishment in public life?
During the Special Election in January, I visited Elk River Senior Living, Pullman Place Cooperative, Guardian Angels, and Keller Lake Commons. I helped, about 100 seniors registered to vote and requested a vote by mail application. Recently, one of woman called to thank me. She received a new vote by mail application for the general election. Vote by mail is a great opportunity for those without easy access to the polls. Also, you can avoid long lines on election day and help keep yourself safe from COVID-19. I’m glad I could help seniors vote.
3. Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2021 Legislature? Why are you running for office?
We need to get our economy moving again and keep our families, children, and co-workers safe from COVID-19. Our state government needs to pursue budgets, policies, investments, and incentives that produces both simultaneously. I get it. Unfortunately, local party-line legislators have proven incapable doing this. For example, they are blocking passing the Bonding Bill to pick fights with the Governor’s efforts to keep us safe during COVID-19. The Bonding Bill is the economic stimulus we need today! We should never play political games with public health, the economy and creating jobs. I believe in calling balls and strikes. It doesn’t matter to me if the pitcher of a good idea is wearing a Republican or Democrat jersey. If it is good for the economy and keeps us safe during COVID, I’m going to take a swing at it.
4. COVID-19: How do you grade the state government’s response to the pandemic? Are additional measures necessary? If so, what?
C+. I feel the Governor and his Commissioners have done a good job communicating what they are doing, how they are doing it and why. My fiancée had a COVID-19 test, and it took 5 days to get the results. Although she tested negative, what if a “super spreader event” like President Trump’s and the White House hit one of our local schools? How can local health official respond to mitigate the threat in real time without rapid testing? We need rapid testing today. I also feel every branch of our state government needs to do more to lead by example. By following commonsense and flexible guidelines, like wearing a mask and social distancing, we can save lives. It is not big ask. In this year, 2136 Minnesotans have died of COVID-19. In 2019, 364 Minnesotan died in car accidents. We take wearing seat belts seriously, by not COVID?
5. Gridlock: What specific measures do you support to reduce the increasing partisanship of the lawmaking process and resulting gridlock? Do you support reforms that would prohibit consolidating multiple subjects into a single omnibus bill?
One way to counter act gridlock is electing more independent leaders over party liners. Congressman Collin Peterson and former Governor Arne Carlson are a couple of independent leaders that come to mind. The problem with party liners is they only care about people they huddle with, but independent leaders put points on the board for everyone win. I’m dedicated to serving a couple terms to get our economy moving again and keep us safe from COVID-19. Currently, I support consolidating multiple subjects into a single omnibus bill. This legislative mechanism enables rural legislative districts like ours get its properties enacted into to law. Party liner legislators don’t like this because they have to build relationships and partnerships outside their huddle, to get something passed.
6. Budget: The Legislature will be tasked with adopting a two-year budget in 2021 with a looming shortfall due to the financial impact of COVID-19. What will be your approach to balancing the budget in terms of reducing spending and/or raising taxes and fees? Be as specific as possible.
To balance the budget, I think both reducing spending and raising revenue will be on the table. In considering options, I would prioritize getting our economy moving again and creating jobs and keeping us safe during COVID. Our schools and local small businesses have been turned upside down due to COVID. We need to help them recalibrate and rebuild. On top of this, due to unemployment, many families have lost access to affordable health care. They need affordable health care options. These all need to balance in balance the budget.
7. Education, K-12: COVID-19 resulted in dramatic changes to the delivery of education. What weaknesses in the system were highlighted by distance learning? Did we identify any best practices that should be incorporated in the post-pandemic era?
Since early spring I have consulted with teachers, superintendents, staff, parents and students to learn about the needs of ISD 728, 727 during COVID. While there are some success stories, access to mental health services is one area we need re-invent in the era COVID. For example, according to Dr. Daniel Bittman, ISD 728 Superintendent, there are approximately 14,000 students, and at any given day, about 10%, or 1400 of these students are experiencing some type of mental health crisis. Zoom meeting or distance learning doesn’t adequately address their individual needs. The same can be said for special ed. students. As we move education forward during COVID, we can’t leave these students and their needs behind or let them fall through the cracks. We should address this issue in K-12 Funding Formula.
8. Education, higher education: Prior to the pandemic, many employers were challenged to find qualified workers. Now we’re faced with unemployment as many businesses are downsizing or closing. Is our higher ed system equipped to pivot and train workers for the changing business landscape?
I believe it is equipped and can pivot. When the legislature makes decision for high education funding, it should consider rewarding schools with programs tailored to the changing business landscape.
9. Health care: Affordable health care remains a concern for many Minnesotans. Do you support the expansion of government-run health insurance plans? If not, what options do you support to stabilize health insurance premiums?
The state legislature passed (bipartisan) a re-insurance program in 2017 to expand access to health care and keep premiums in check. Due to unemployment from COVID, many families have lost access to affordable health care. They need affordable health care options. I favor a similar plan as the 2017 legislation in the 2021 Legislative Session.
10. Workplace regulations: Mandated paid family and medical leave for all Minnesota employers were debated in 2020. It passed the House but failed in the Senate. Do you support such a mandate? Why or why not?
I favor paid family and medical leave, but not the way the 2020 bill was written and its potential impact on small business owners.
11. Transportation: What is your preference for raising additional money for roads and bridges? Or is current funding sufficient?
We need to pass the bonding bill without delay! It is the economic stimulus we need to get the economy moving. We have shovel ready road and infrastructure projects, jobs, ready to go right here in Sherburne County and Wright County. My opponent, Representative Paul Novotny, has voted against fixing our local roads 4 times this summer and fall to protest the Governor’s efforts to keep us safe during COVID-19. We should never play political games with public health, the economy and creating jobs.
12. Energy: Should Minnesota increase its renewable energy mandates on utilities? Or are market forces sufficient to promote sustainability?
I believe market forces are sufficient to promote sustainability, but the state government offers incentives to promote sustainability.
13. Police reform: Police reform has become center stage in the aftermath of the George Floyd death and prompted passage of legislation during the special session. Did the laws go far enough or too far? Should the Legislature take additional measures?
I was pleased to see this bipartisan legislation pass. It might be impossible to completely extinguish hatred through legislation, but people who peddle in it can be held accountable when they break the law. We all have a responsibility to call out hate and racism.
14. What, if any, local initiatives or legislation do you have in mind if you are elected?
Build relationships and partnerships and form a bipartisan group of legislators to get a dedicated funding source for our transportation needs, roads, bridges and infrastructure, free from politics and the games. Some local legislators are playing with this year’s bonding bill. I would also like to see the K-12 funding formula reformed to ensure special education needs are fully funded vs mandated to local school districts.