What’s being done to confront the coronavirus and stem the economic fallout from the pandemic is central to this year’s election campaigns. That was clear when the candidates in Minnesota’s 2nd and 6th Congressional Districts met in separate MPR News debates Friday.
Democratic Rep. Angie Craig is seeking a second term in the 2nd District, which covers suburban counties and some rural areas south of the Twin Cities.
She said the lack of a national approach has been an “abject failure” and kept the country in a troubled place for too long.
“In order to get people back to work, to reopen the economy, to get kids back to school, we’re going to need a federal strategy to suppress the virus,” Craig said. “What that means in practice is not what we’ve been seeing from this administration. We need testing. We need contact tracing. And we need isolation strategies. That’s not what we’ve seen.”
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Craig said it’s essential that Congress pass more relief for idled workers, state and local governments and other entities upended by the pandemic and economic fallout.
Her Republican challenger Tyler Kistner said he supports more federal rescue steps, but in a more-limited fashion.
“The place we need to be focused is on providing relief to those who are most affected by this virus,” he said. “As I went across this district and talked to the families across every corner of the 2nd District and talked to the small businesses, they’re the ones who need the relief. They’re not looking for a bailout. And what we’re seeing in Washington is just finger-pointing.”
The 6th District, which runs across some northern suburbs and into St. Cloud, is deemed less politically competitive.
Republican Rep. Tom Emmer, who is after a fourth term, said there’s a need for more help but leaders also need to keep an eye on budget deficits and the national debt.
“But I’ll tell you. It was tough for me. It was the Hobson’s choice when we talked about the CARES Act. I believe we did the right thing,” Emmer said. “And I believe a strong economy, which is what we’re going to have next year when it comes back, once we have a vaccine for this virus. … Guess what, you’re going to see a recovery like we expect and we’ve never seen before.”
DFL challenger Tawnja Zahradka came hard at Emmer for playing politics with the relief as a member of Republican House leadership.
She said too many people are in financial trouble because expanded unemployment benefits expired and other aid is in limbo.
“I would support getting the $600 into people’s hands. For these people that are in office right now to stand up and say, ‘that’s going to keep people from going back to work.’ Really?” Zahradka said. “That’s going to keep food on the table. That’s going to keep a roof over their heads. That’s going to keep people in their homes and not out on the streets fighting COVID. And people are sick of it.”
The two debates were separately moderated by Politics Friday host and MPR News political editor Mike Mulcahy on Friday.
Use the audio player above to listen to the debates on Politics Friday.