A veteran lawmaker and a newcomer are only the beginning of the readily noticeable differences between major party candidates for Minnesota’s 6th District congressional race.
During 14 years in elected public office, incumbent Congressman Tom Emmer has established himself as a steadfast conservative Republican. Democratic challenger Jeanne Hendricks touts no political experience other than affiliation with the Democratic-Farmer Labor Rural Caucus, the DFL Veterans Caucus, and the National Women’s Political Caucus. She has spent most of her life working as a certified registered nurse anesthetist specialist.
Outside of a few agreements on policy issues, the two candidates provide a clear and distinct choice for 6th District voters.
Marked divergence emerged as the candidates were questioned on four issues that are leading concerns in the 6th District: Crime/public safety, environment/climate change, election integrity, and the economy.
The recent congressional response to national rising crime came in the passage of the gun reform bill. Emmer did not support the bill. Hendricks supported the bill “as a start” towards further reforms.
Emmer is less interested in passing new laws to curb crime and, instead, favors fixing the current system and enforcing current law. If elected, Hendricks would work for the adoption of more gun reform laws, such as a universal background checks and outlawing gun kits and military grade assault weapons.
Both candidates want to see greater support and respect for law enforcement personnel. “Police officers need to be supported and respected,” Emmer said. Hendricks favors fully funding police departments.
Climate change is a major issue for today’s voters due to the overwhelming scientific evidence that it is having profound impact on our planet. Hendricks readily agrees. “Climate change is real,” she said.
Hendrick agrees that taking congressional action to reduce the use of fossil fuels is the right move. To curb growing carbon emission, Hendricks favors imposing a “self-regulating” carbon tax with clearly defined steps that can be taken by emitters to avoid the tax.
Emmer didn't directly address our questions about the reality of global warming and instead chose to talk about the responsibility of every American “to be smart stewards of the environment.” The congressman believes in an “all-of-the-above” approach to meet the nation’s energy needs, which includes the continued use of fossil fuels.
An important environmental issue in Minnesota is the question of permitting copper and nickel mining in the Superior National Forest near the Boundary Waters. Differences between the candidates surfaced again with questions about support of the proposed mining.
Hendricks shares our doubt that mining can proceed without permanently damaging the watersheds. She takes a “prove it first” approach and wants the companies to show similar sites with no contamination for 10 years after mining started.
Emmer has gone on record in support of copper nickel mining in northern Minnesota. He believes that the current environmental review process will give assurance of safety.
Our identification of election integrity as a major issue is based on the serious threat that voter mistrust in the system poses to our democracy. Gauging the candidates’ level of trust in the current system was the basis for asking them if they believe that Joe Biden was legally elected president in the 2020 election. Emmer responded by stating the fact that “Biden is president.” Hendricks responded that Biden was legally elected “in the most successful and fair election we have ever had.”
Among Emmer’s suggestions for building greater integrity into the system is to ensure changes in election laws are made by state legislatures and not state constitutional officers. Hendricks focused her comments on measures she feels Congress should take to remove barriers to allow all eligible voters to cast votes.
In one of their few agreements, both candidates said that requiring some form of photo identification for all voters would improve the safety of elections. They also agreed that stricter voter identification would go a long way in building greater trust in elections among the American people. “A lot of our freedom rests on restoring the integrity of the system,” Emmer said.
The widest divergence between the candidates came as they were queried about the economy. Emmer is very critical about the current direction of the nation’s economy. “Leadership is making the wrong decisions,” he said.
Hendricks believes that the checks and balances built into the economy are working and things are getting better.
When it came to questions about the role of the Federal Reserve Bank in controlling inflation, their night and day difference was on full display. Emmer believes that the system is antiquated and is interested in curbing the authority of the Federal Reserve and its responsibility in setting U.S monetary policy. Hendricks sees the Federal Reserve playing a necessary role in balancing the economy.
Both candidates offered solutions to widespread workforce shortages. Hendricks said immigration reform is a part of the solution. She supports streamlining the immigration process to move people more easily through legal ports of entry and provide a way for immigrants in the country to gain citizenship.
Emmer does not see immigration as a solution to the country’s workforce issues. He favors legislation that would “get people back into the workforce,” those who have stopped working due to government monetary supports. He also supports legislation that would lessen the amount of Social Security taxed for working elders to keep them in the workforce.
We believe informing voters about the positions of these two diverse congressional candidates will result in a better election outcome. Simply knowing their backgrounds and political affiliation is not enough. Where they stand on the issues far more reveals what paths they would follow as 6th District representatives and national leaders.