Incumbent Shelly Christensen is facing Republican Joe Garofalo in the race to represent District 39B in the Minnesota House. District 39B includes about half of Stillwater, as well as the cities of Lake Elmo, Oak Park Heights and Bayport. It also includes Grant, Pine Springs and areas as far south as St. Mary’s Point. The Gazette asked both candidates the same set of questions. Garofalo did not respond by The Gazette’s deadline. Here are Christensen’s responses:

Shelly Christensen

Age: 65

Occupation: Representative-House District 39B

Previous political/community experience:  I am a lifelong resident of the St. Croix Valley and a retired teacher and coach. Prior to running for office I was involved in local activism and I served on the Downtown Planning Commission. My first term as a legislator has taught me about building relationships, the power of civility and the beauty of our democracy. I am honored to represent the community that raised me.

Assess state government’s response to the pandemic thus far and what do you believe to be the best way that the state can support both public health safety and the economy as it emerges from restrictions?

I agree with and support our Governor’s response to this epidemic. In fact, a wide majority of Minnesotans are supportive of the measures taken to protect the people of Minnesota from this virus. The initial response allowed us to build out hospital capacity, increase ventilators and ICU beds, distribute personal protective equipment and to increase our testing capacity by working with our partners at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota. Since then, main street businesses have opened at 50% capacity and bars and restaurants reopened for patio and outdoor service with social distancing and 50% capacity. These measures will minimize risk and increase safety of employees and customers alike.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has created real challenges for businesses, workers and government. The Paycheck Protection Program, unemployment assistance, small business loans and childcare assistance grants have been helpful, but the pain is real. We will continue to take proactive steps to assist our business community in these unprecedented times.

The unrest in the Twin Cities following the death of George Floyd while in police custody has had an impact around the world. Talk about your feelings and/or involvement in response, and how can state government assist in improving relations with diverse communities?

I am a member of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Policy and Finance Committee. The committee spent many hours in joint discussions with our POCI (people of color and indigenous) caucus in addressing the very real problems related to police reform and racial inequities in Minnesota. The murder of George Floyd was disturbing to say the least. It was so disturbing that it made the news worldwide and Minnesota was ground zero. We responded with a bi-partisan police reform bill that includes a ban on chokeholds and warrior style training methods. It also includes mandated reporting for officers that witness excessive force. All of these reforms (and many more) are long overdue; there is more work to be done to address racism in Minnesota.

We cannot deny that diverse communities suffer from inequities. Our racial inequities in education are the worst in the nation. My work on the Education Policy Committee will strive to create policy to address this embarrassing statistic. There are inequities in housing that cannot be denied. Access to healthcare is not fair. Needless to say, we have more work to do.

What are other priorities facing residents in your district in the next few years, and how would you deal with them?

First, our education system lacks adequate funding. As a teacher, I saw first-hand the results of the negligence. We need an equitable preschool to career approach to public education. Second, Covid has revealed to us the importance of affordable, quality healthcare. I support a Minnesota Care buy-in option that is available to all Minnesotans. This could be a pathway to universal healthcare. Finally, all Minnesotans deserve a clean energy future and a healthy climate. We must set ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions as we confront our climate crisis. This list is not exhaustive; I will always work to make the lives of Minnesotans better.

COVID-19 pandemic has created real challenges for businesses, workers and government. The Paycheck Protection Program, unemployment assistance, small business loans and childcare assistance grants have been helpful, but the pain is real. We will continue to take proactive steps to assist our business community in these unprecedented times.

The unrest in the Twin Cities following the death of George Floyd while in police custody has had an impact around the world. Talk about your feelings and/or involvement in response, and how can state government assist in improving relations with diverse communities?

I am a member of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Policy and Finance Committee. The committee spent many hours in joint discussions with our POCI (people of color and indigenous) caucus in addressing the very real problems related to police reform and racial inequities in Minnesota. The murder of George Floyd was disturbing to say the least. It was so disturbing that it made the news worldwide and Minnesota was ground zero. We responded with a bi-partisan police reform bill that includes a ban on chokeholds and warrior style training methods. It also includes mandated reporting for officers that witness excessive force. All of these reforms (and many more) are long overdue; there is more work to be done to address racism in Minnesota.

We cannot deny that diverse communities suffer from inequities. Our racial inequities in education are the worst in the nation. My work on the Education Policy Committee will strive to create policy to address this embarrassing statistic. There are inequities in housing that cannot be denied. Access to healthcare is not fair. Needless to say, we have more work to do.

What are other priorities facing residents in your district in the next few years, and how would you deal with them?

First, our education system lacks adequate funding. As a teacher, I saw first-hand the results of the negligence. We need an equitable preschool to career approach to public education. Second, COVID has revealed to us the importance of affordable, quality healthcare.

I support a Minnesota Care buy-in option that is available to all Minnesotans.

This could be a pathway to universal healthcare. Finally, all Minnesotans deserve a clean energy future and a healthy climate. We must set ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions as we confront our climate crisis. This list is not exhaustive; I will always work to make the lives of Minnesotans better.

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