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2020 Election: Sixth District incumbent Tom Emmer (R), squares off against challenger Tawnja Zahradka (D). The Sixth is a sprawling district that stretches from Belle Plaine in the south, to just north of St. Cloud and to the border with Wisconsin, just beyond Forest Lake.

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Background and qualifications.

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

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.

Do you support the expansion of Association Health Plans?

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that approximately four million Americans will be covered by Association Health Plans (AHPs) by 2023. Expanding AHPs allows small businesses owners and individuals to purchase health coverage for their families and employees across state lines and at a much lower cost. This allows for decreased costs, better coverage and protections for those with pre-existing conditions. In addition to AHPs, I have been a long time supporter of the increased use of Health Savings Accounts and have co-sponsored multiple pieces of legislation expanding their use and applications. Using tools like these we will be able to ensure that everyone has access to the best, most affordable coverage available.

COVID-19 has had a profound effect on the demands for and delivery of education. What role should the federal government play in ensuring that U.S. graduates can compete in the global economy?

As a father of seven, I understand that the education system in America should be as diverse and individualized as the students it serves. The best thing we can do for our children is to localize

the control of education as much as possible, make immediate and significant investments to provide reliable broadband access for all of our students, and continue to highlight the importance of trade skills and apprenticeship programs. A skilled and competitive workforce is essential to our country’s economic growth and our future as a nation.

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.

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.

Background and qualifications.

Tawnja Zahradka 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. She accepts no corporate PAC, fossil fuel or big pharma campaign money. Zahradka is national an local AFLCIO endorsed.

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.

Do you support the expansion of Association Health Plans?

While on their face, AHPs seem like a good idea, I am very leery and skeptical of them as, too often, they become an end-run around the protections put in place by the ACA. In some cases, people have been lured in by lower premiums and a promise of minimal standard care, only to find out that they are discriminated against for pre-existing conditions. These AHP’s are geared to younger, healthier people, but payments can be denied for reasons not often highlighted in the pitch to join. High-risk people are left in the lurch and should stick to the ACA programs to ensure fair coverage. If AHPs wish to continue expanding, I feel they should be held to the same standards as the ACA.

COVID-19 has had a profound effect on the demands for and delivery of education. What role should the federal government play in ensuring that U.S. graduates can compete in the global economy?

If I said I had a perfect answer to this question, I would be lying. We are all struggling to figure out the best approaches to this unprecedented experiment. I think the greatest challenge is equity in education for a staggering number of diverse scenarios. How do we ensure that all receive a quality education? How do we guarantee that online education is sustainable for younger children with lower attention spans? What would be the best approach at the end of this crisis to equalize levels of education among a group of children who have received such widely varying versions of learning? I think we will need to give some sort of standards tests at the end of this crisis, not to judge and not to be held against children, but to analyze where they need help. We will likely need some funding for in-class aides who can create breakout groups which can focus on specific areas where the deficiencies lie. We will figure this out together, that is what Americans do.

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

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.

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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