Questions for U.S. Congressional candidates:

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

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

Police reform: 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?

Health care: Do you support the expansion of Association Health Plans?

Education: 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?

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

Pete Stauber, U.S. Congress (Dist. 8 - R, incumbent)

Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2021 Congress? Why are you running for office? Two years ago, one of the focal points of my campaign as a first-time congressional candidate was to let you, the voters, know who I am. I introduced myself to you and shared my story, what my priorities are, and how I wanted to represent the 8th congressional district. Professional hockey player, small-business owner, police officer: those were the uniforms I wore throughout my life. That uniform changed in 2019 when I took my oath. Whether it’s a suit and tie when I’m at the White House meeting with President Trump on criminal-justice reform, slacks and a sport coat when I visit with small-business owners in Cambridge, or jeans and Carhartts when I’m visiting with farmers, loggers, or miners, my purpose is resolute. My priority isn’t an issue: It’s you the people. I am humbled to be your congressman. For the past two years I have been listening to you and learning from you. My focus in Congress is on you. It has been a privilege fighting for our way of life, and I would be honored to receive your vote to continue advocating on your behalf.

Economy: How do you grade the federal government’s response to the pandemic? Are additional measures necessary to spur the economy? If so, what? Before the global pandemic struck our economy was churning at historic levels. Unemployment was the lowest since before we landed on the moon. I supported a pro-growth economy that got us to record levels and we’ll get there again. I was proud to support bipartisan legislation like the CARES Act that provided emergency funding and resources for federal, state, and local responses to COVID-19, as well as provide small businesses with emergency relief (Paycheck Protection Program) that saved more than 50 million jobs. One thing the pandemic has shown us is we must become a more self-reliant country. Our miners, manufacturers, and others throughout our domestic supply chain eagerly await the chance to serve their nation and responsibly source these resources needed for every sector of our economy.

Police reform: 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? Across our country, once peaceful protests turned into riots, chaos, looting, lawlessness, and in some cases, anarchy reined. And now, they are calling to defund our police. We can’t allow our country to get held hostage by lawlessness and anarchists. That’s not the society we want to be. As we rebuild trust between our police and their communities, I am proud to be working with Sen. Tim Scott on meaningful criminal justice reform, the JUSTICE Act, which includes bipartisan provisions that would rebuild performance, accountability, and transparency within police departments nationwide. Instead of defunding the police, we need to build trust between communities and their police.

Health care: Do you support the expansion of Association Health Plans? Minnesotans want and Americans need high quality, affordable and accessible health care that is patient-driven and physician-guided, putting individuals in charge of their health care rather than the government. I remain committed to working with Republicans and Democrats on true health care reform that lowers costs and increases access to quality health care by setting up Association Health Plans (AHPs) that allow groups and businesses to band together for better rates, allowing insurance companies to cross state lines, and doing all we can to ensure health insurance is portable and affordable.

Education: 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? Every child in every school should receive a quality education. While Washington should play a limited role, we must do what we can to provide parents and school leaders the certainty and flexibility they need to deliver children a great education. Year after year we are not living up to our responsibilities to students with disabilities. Rather than proposing new programs and schemes that divert scarce resources away from classrooms serving these students, Washington should fulfill its promise made to these students. As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, I was especially proud to work with Democrat Rep. Angie Craig on the bipartisan IDEA Full Funding Act, to fully fund special education in our public schools. Additionally, I am honored to receive an “A” rating from the National Education Association (NEA).

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications: From playing hockey all my life to my two-plus decades of committed public service in law enforcement, I am a problem solver. Like so many Minnesotans, I grew up on the rink. After high school, I was the team captain for Lake Superior State University where we won the national championship. I recently retired from the Duluth Police Department after 22 years of service and considered it a privilege to serve. My wife, Jodi, is an Iraq war veteran who retired from the 148th Fighter Wing as the first female Command Chief in the history of the unit. Jodi and I have four children and a foster baby and they are one of the reasons I am running for reelection to Congress. We have to do all we can to ensure the American dream is within reach for their generation and generations to come so they can enjoy the freedom and prosperity that has made America great.

Quinn Nystrom, U.S. Congress (Dist. 8 - D)

Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2021 Congress? Why are you running for office? Living with Type 1 diabetes, I pay nearly $1,000 out of pocket every month for my healthcare – and that’s with good insurance. The price of insulin has gone up nearly 1200% since I was diagnosed as a teenager and I’ve had enough. It’s not just insulin - prescription drug prices are skyrocketing and too many among us can no longer afford their prescriptions or are too afraid of the bill to go to the doctor. It’s unacceptable and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it worse. In Congress, I’ll stand up to Big Pharma, fight for more affordable healthcare and lower prescription drug costs, and protect coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Economy: How do you grade the federal government’s response to the pandemic? Are additional measures necessary to spur the economy? If so, what? The federal government’s response to the pandemic has been abysmal. The economy fundamentally will not recover until we beat this virus. We need universal, easy to access, 1-day or immediate testing. We need more PPE for our frontline healthcare workers. We need a coherent plan from the federal government on when certain areas should be closed and when they shouldn’t. On the economic side we need to continue the unemployment benefits with $600 additional per week. We also need support for our cities and states so that they don’t have to cut their budgets right in the midst of the greatest economic downturn since the great depression.

Police reform: 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? Reform is needed on all levels of the criminal justice system. We need broad reforms to crack down on departments with a history of racial profiling and officers with high levels of complaints against them. We need to ensure that law enforcement have the right training and make sure that we’re sending the right people to handle each situation. We must address the racial disparities in sentencing and reform the bail bond system. Most importantly, those in power have to listen to the communities affected by these issues and realize that we will not get anywhere if we don’t try to sit down and work together to make change.

Health care: Do you support the expansion of Association Health Plans? I support healthcare plans that cover everything that patients need to get good, quality care without having to choose between buying groceries and paying for their prescriptions. Association Health Plans do not have to cover basic care like maternity care or offer prescription coverage and can set different premium rates based on age, gender, job, and for thousands of Minnesotans like me, pre-existing conditions. The lack of adequate coverage presents a dangerous risk for workers on these plans who would be forced to pay out of pocket for anything not covered, and could further destabilize the insurance market by enticing cost-conscious small business owners to offer their employees cheaper plans instead of comprehensive ones. We should be working to make ALL healthcare more affordable, not adjusting coverage to fit sky high costs.

Education: 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?

Like with the economy, our schools won’t go back to normal until we have beaten this virus. Our federal government must ensure that our kids are competing on a level playing field – that everyone has the opportunity to succeed if they work hard and follow the rules. That’s the promise of America, and it starts with our kids. I believe strongly that the federal government should fund universal pre-k and provide our schools with the resources they need so our kids can get the education they deserve. In Congress, I’ll work to lower the cost of higher education, including community colleges and technical schools-which provide millions of Americans with skills that help them compete in a growing economy.

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications: I’m a 4th generation resident of Crow Wing County. Minnesota is my home. When I was a teenager, my brother Will and I were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I promised Will that I would find a cure and I’ve been working for people with diabetes ever since. I went door to door raising money for research and advocacy, then became the National Youth Advocate for the American Diabetes Association. I’ve lobbied Congress and State Legislatures across the country to take action and fought for years to lower the price of insulin and protect people with pre-existing conditions like mine. Most recently I spearheaded the effort to pass the Alec Smith Affordable Insulin Act here in Minnesota. At 28, I became the youngest member of the Baxter City Council. I worked with my conservative colleauges to manage the city budget, worked with the police to combat sex trafficking, and worked with our local hospitals to expand mental healthcare options. In Congress, I’ll do the same, working across the aisle to get things done. We must expand access to affordable healthcare, lower prescription drug costs, and make our economy work again for all Minnesotans.

Andrew Mathews, State Senate (Dist. 15 - R, incumbent)

Andrew Mathews biographical information: Lives in Princeton; Married to Elsa, with son Daniel; Education - JD degree; Occupation - Pastor, Veteran’s Caseworker; Years in City, County, District - I have lived in the Princeton/Milaca area for 24 years; and community/civic involvement - worked in numerous church and civic roles in the community.

What are your ideas for jump-starting commercial and residential development? We will have better growth commercial and residential development by eliminating unnecessary red tape and regulations that make the costs of building houses more expensive in Minnesota than states neighboring us. Republicans in the legislature have been working on housing reforms this past session. We also need a better tax climate so that businesses will pick here to start or expand their business and help our communities grow. Especially in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, we need to temporarily slash tax rates for workers and employers to help get Minnesota back to work.

What is your assessment of the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Governor’s use of executive orders and the Legislature’s actions? The State should continue to keep resources available such as PPE and testing where it is needed, and put out the best and latest recommendations and guidelines, but allow our schools and businesses to make the best decision without threat of government shutdown. The executive orders have completely cut out the people’s voice through the Legislature, and it is time to do away with the emergency powers and start working together again to get through this period with COVID-19.

How can the state government assist in improving police relations with diverse communities in Minnesota and address the larger issue of systemic racism? The state government is working to help improve police relations, and that is why I support the state’s review of the Minneapolis Police Department. However, the blame for a few bad actors cannot be spread to all law enforcement officials, and our small town and rural law enforcement have much better relationships with our communities. As to overall larger issues, education is key. Minnesota has one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation, so it’s time to try something new. Almost every other state has passed bipartisan legislation to open school choice, and not keep families of color trapped in failing schools.

What is your interpretation of the Reservation status of the 1855 Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe 1855 Treaty? Ultimately, the Federal Courts have final say in this matter. The big issue currently is the ramifications resulting from the State’s decision to change its long-standing position of what is recognized as the boundary. This change was largely without even a heads up to local officials, and contributed to numerous lawsuits. The State needs to do a better job of working with our local officials, and hold Mille Lacs County harmless while the Federal lawsuit goes through the courts.

What is your opinion on the co-management system currently in place for the Mille Lacs fishery? Again, this co-management system has been established by Federal Courts, and the DNR is responsible for representing the state in this management system. The DNR has frustrated a lot of people around Mille Lacs for the way they’ve managed the lake under their part of the agreement for many years. I’ve come up with many bill ideas for creative ways we can help open the lake but the DNR usually shoots them down. The DNR recently informed me they are looking at tweaking the management system, and I will continue to push them to make it transparent and fair so that all of us can enjoy our wonderful lake.

Brent Krist, State Senate (Dist. 15 - D)

Brent Krist biographical information: Lives in Milaca; Married to Sherri Krist; Education - Associate Science CNET degree; Occupation - railroad wwitchman for BNSF Railway; Years in City, County, District - I have lived on the family farm near Bock for 38 years; and community/civic involvement - BNSF Railway, Legislative Representative of SMART-TD Local 1000 and Treasurer of Mille Lacs County DFL.

What are your ideas for jump-starting commercial and residential development? I will support a robust bonding bill that invests in our communities and keeps trades people working. Until the virus is controlled, we need to continue economic stimulus to support citizens and small businesses.

Our small towns need legislation that expands grant and loan opportunities for new and growing enterprises. We must also fully fund border-to-border broadband, so slow speeds don’t hold anyone back. Outside of city limits, farming is key to our economy and way of life. We need to strengthen tax benefits for farmers and their land, and actively promote new cash crops like Kernza and hemp.

What is your assessment of the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Governor’s use of executive orders and the Legislature’s actions? Governor Walz has a difficult job, made even more so by a total lack of engagement from one side of our Legislature. It is unfortunate that a pandemic has become a political issue, when a deadly virus should unite us in a common fight. I trust science and will listen to the guidance of health experts. It is obvious that wearing masks indoors is effective at limiting the spread of COVID and is essential to keep businesses open. Instead of endless show votes to pretend there is no emergency, I will face reality and work together on a path forward.

How can the state government assist in improving police relations with diverse communities in Minnesota and address the larger issue of systemic racism? I would bring in diverse voices and listen to all relevant perspectives. I understand the context of past discriminatory policies and will work alongside people of all perspectives to ensure that history does not repeat. As a leader, I will find common ground, not fan flames of intolerance.

What is your interpretation of the Reservation status of the 1855 Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe 1855 Treaty? Mille Lacs County has wasted a lot of money fighting the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe on their federal treaty. In 2002, the County lost a similar fight and with recent decisions by the federal and state government, continuing the battle will likely only cost the public more and drive a wedge in our community. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is the largest employer and property taxpayer in the county; these divisions will limit their future investment and alienate a critical part of our population. The community would be better served by working together with the Ojibwe nation and growing a new partnership that benefits everyone.

What is your opinion on the co-management system currently in place for the Mille Lacs fishery? All sides are doing as well as they can under the current circumstances with rising stresses on the lake from increased temperatures, invasive species, and shoreline development. Mille Lacs is a very large lake that everyone wants to be a great success. While I do believe in oversight of and transparency from our State agencies, I will leave specific fish population management techniques up to the experts at the MnDNR.

Sondra Erickson, State Representative (Dist. 15A - R, incumbent)

Sondra Erickson biographical information: City - Princeton; Family - widowed for over 30 years; one child, married with one child; Education - BA in English from Concordia College in Moorhead MN; post graduate - over 100 credits; Occupation - retired high school English/journalism teacher and current state representative for District 15A; Years in District - Moved to Princeton area in 1964 to teach school and have lived a total of 46 years in Mille Lacs County and 11 years in Sherburne County; and community/civic involvement - member of Chamber of Commerce - Princeton, Milaca, and Isle, life member of Princeton Civic Betterment Club, member of American Legion Auxiliary, former board member and chair of Rum River Life Choices; member of Immanuel Lutheran Church for 57 years.

What are your ideas for jump-starting commercial and residential development? First, it is necessary that the governor designate all businesses essential, allowing them to open fully - trusting owners to understand health and safety. Personal responsibility empowers people while government mandates enable.

Secondly, except for better access to broadband - a legislative priority - our area has the characteristics that attract business and industry: interlinked major US and Minnesota highway system, great medical facilities, land available for development of industry and manufacturing, innovative programs in our schools, farming, Lake Mille Lacs, and a strong economic development organization like Region 7E. If leaders of counties, cities, and townships work together to promote our area, I can assist to access state grant and loan programs and tax incentives for start-up business and industry as well as for housing needs, while our congressional delegation can do likewise with federal programs.

What is your assessment of the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Governor’s use of executive orders and the Legislature’s actions? Our medical professionals worked tirelessly to care for patients, and the legislature provided extra funding for hospitals and front-line workers.

However, now Gov. Walz needs to end his emergency powers in order to work with the legislature to begin development of the management and recovery phase.

How can the state government assist in improving police relations with diverse communities in Minnesota and address the larger issue of systemic racism? Law and order is essential and our law enforcement and first responders are among the best. I urge parents (and school personnel) to continue to teach our children about our laws and how they provide order and affirm that riots and looting are criminal and do not accomplish change. I consulted with local departments during the police reform movement at the legislature and believe the policies that were enacted will provide better trained professionals as well as improved community relations.

Because my expertise is in education, I will continue to open doors for high quality teachers of color to diversify the ranks of our teachers, and reform teacher tenure provisions that put a premium on hiring dates over competence. I will address inequality by empowering parents of all socio-economic positions to get high quality education for their children.

What is your interpretation of the Reservation status of the 1855 Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe 1855 Treaty? Over the past 160 years, there have been a number of statutes, cases, opinions, and other occurrences that have impacted the existence of the reservation boundary. Mille Lacs County and I believe that history supports the position that the reservation has been disestablished or diminished, but we remain respectful of the tribe’s sovereignty regarding the land that the federal government placed into trust on their behalf.

Unfortunately, because of the decision by the Walz administration to recognize a 61,000-acre reservation, federal government agencies, instead of state agencies, have jurisdiction in many critical areas, such as issuing permits, and that leaves residents without state support. Even the state health department gave tribal jurisdiction over non-tribal members living on reservations during the virus pandemic, and I had to intervene.

What is your opinion on the co-management system currently in place for the Mille Lacs fishery? The DNR is supposed to lead - not co-manage - a state resource such as Lake Mille Lacs, the prime lake in the 1837 ceded territory. As a former commissioner told me, the DNR is supposed to collaborate, not-co-manage. However, the DNR has chosen co-management, which has resulted in annual upheaval of the fishery.

Moreover, for 20 years the DNR has refused to include participation by area experts (with decades of knowledge and data of the lake) at the fisheries technical meetings, so the process has become political. Instead the DNR works behind the scenes with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) and the eight bands to finalize plans, and the tech meetings become more of a public show and the people are left out.

I will strive to get the DNR to lead and to work with and for the people. And, I will continue to argue that area experts be included in the technical meetings to debate face to face the decisions on quotas, protocols, conservation practices, and hooking mortality, among other issues.

Cal Schmock, State Representative (Dist. 15A - D)

Cal Schmock biographical information: City - Baldwin Township; Education - Big Lake High School graduate; Occupation - Sole-Proprietor Auto Technician, Coach at Princeton High School, Middle School and Community Ed., Musician, Author; and community/civic involvement - Election Judge, served on Baldwin Township Planning and Zoning information gathering committee.

What are your ideas for jump-starting commercial and residential development? Create a welcoming and favorable environment for Sole-proprietors and Farming families by addressing the cost of Healthcare premiums and cost of Medication through the MNSure system.

Full funding of Public Education “Classrooms First”, Properly funded Highway Infrastructure for the hard working commuters of 15A, Advocate for my Native American Community and to be an inspiration for ALL of my friends and neighbors in 15A

What is your assessment of the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Governor’s use of executive orders and the Legislature’s actions? Will contact tracing lead to insurance companies denying coverage for care as they try to “pass the blame” onto the “accused source” of an outbreak - when does the cost of death justify the cost of creating legislation to save life - and what will that potential legislation look like?

Are we working toward proper legislation that protects business owners and consumers from the potential cost of an “outbreak” by requiring insurance companies to include “pandemic language” in their business liability policies and individual Healthcare policies?

How can the state government assist in improving police relations with diverse communities in Minnesota and address the larger issue of systemic racism? It helps to have people in those positions that identify with their community and can relate to the cultures and environments that they serve. Proper funding, keeping promises made in the form of contracts and continued education are always steps in the right direction.

What is your interpretation of the Reservation status of the 1855 Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe 1855 Treaty? Broken - let’s give the Reservations proper representation in the form of Representatives and Senators at the State and Federal levels and then insure that the Reservations have proper Executive and Judicial jurisdiction and ability to govern their communities with the support of the State and Federal governments.

What is your opinion on the co-management system currently in place for the Mille Lacs fishery? It is unfortunate that anglers are so addicted to one type of catch. I’ve heard so many stories of people that throw Bullhead fish onto the shores to rot. My Native grandmother used to make the most delicious pan-fried Bullhead – so succulent.

I actually prefer pan fish fillet.

 

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