Voter guide: Where the 6th District candidates stand on the issues

Side by side portraits of a man and woman.
Rep. Tom Emmer and Democratic congressional candidate Tawnja Zahradka.
Evan Frost | MPR News and Courtesy of Tawnja Zahradka

The 6th District covers just north of Minneapolis and St. Paul and includes the St. Cloud area, Maple Lake, Buffalo, south of Chaska, and all the way east to Scandia, Hugo and Forest Lake. 

Incumbent Rep. Tom Emmer has represented the reliably Republican district since 2015. He is also a lawyer, a former state legislator and a former radio show host.

DFL candidate Tawnja Zahradka is running against Emmer. She is also a broadcaster, the owner of a television production company and former Mrs. Minnesota America.

Here’s a look at the positions each candidate took during a debate hosted by MPR News.

Click the audio player above to listen to the full debate.

Opening statements

Emmer: Emmer said he wants his constituents to remember what makes Minnesota and the U.S. great: freedom and opportunity.

“We all want better health care. We all want a cleaner environment. We all want a stronger economy. But the solutions to achieve these things come from people, not the government,” said Emmer.

Emmer talked about his recent focus on mental health care. He said he helped provide $10 million in funding the mental health services for vulnerable populations and secure unanimous support for the Abby Honold Act which helps law enforcement properly engage with victims of sexual assault. He also secured more than $55 million in federal funding for road and bridge projects in Minnesota.

Zahradka: Zahradka never saw herself running for elected office. However, after she attended her first town hall meeting in St. Cloud as a resident, she knew she had to do something. According to Zahradka, a 10-year-old girl stood up and asked Emmer how he could allow families to be separated and put into cages.

“He said, Well, they aren’t cages, it's indoor fencing,” said Zahradka.

Zahradka said that she has always tried to run a positive campaign, but Emmer makes it impossible. “He voted against protecting women from violence, voted to take away health care with no replacement plan for millions of people, and he made sure Minnesota received no federal funds to rebuild after the devastating George Floyd protests,” said Zahradka.

COVID-19

Emmer: Emmer said the House has already taken unprecedented action such as the bipartisan passing of the CARES Act and three other bills to help people get through the pandemic.

”We're already seeing an economic recovery. Unfortunately, it's not for everyone. There's work yet to be done,” said Emmer. According to Emmer, further action is being held up due to the upcoming election despite bipartisan support. “I would hope that very soon, the majority in the House would put people ahead of the politics of the election.”

He and his team delivered over 40,000 masks to two major hospitals and hosted town halls to provide health care, business, and education information to the district’s residents.

“We're not going to stop working to get targeted systems for some of these folks, businesses, teachers, and child care providers,” said Emmer. 

Zahradka: She supports wearing a mask and self-quarantining if one is exposed to the virus which she yet again brought back to Emmer. “Before we can get this economy back going, our representative has to stop spreading rhetoric that kills people,” said Zahradka. 

Stimulus package

Emmer: “There are several nonpartisan things that we can pass through both chambers right now to help families and businesses through this pandemic,” said Emmer.

These actions include providing additional funding for airline payroll support programs and PPP loan forgiveness for loans issued under $150,000, he said. He also thinks there should be additional targeted support for hospital and health care workers. 

Zahradka: Zahradka said she supports getting immediate aid to anyone who needs it, extending unemployment benefits and freezing mortgage and rent payments for those who are about to be evicted. She also supports sending out another $600 stimulus check soon.

“I would enact the legislation that's been sitting there for four months and not make excuses and not go back to talking points and get things done and tell the truth because that's what I bring to the table,” said Zahradka. 

Government Spending

Emmer: According to Emmer, Congress is quickly approaching $30 trillion in federal spending, so when creating the next stimulus package, it has to be targeted. Approving the CARES Act was a tough decision for Emmer, but he believes it was the right thing to do.

“I believe in 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, once we can make sure that people are not only healthy, but they're protected from the worst tragedy that this virus can present,” said Emmer. 

Zahradka: She suggested that everyone, including lawmakers should have to pay their fair share in taxes. She then criticized Emmer’s prediction for next year and the state of our country, accusing him of “painting a rosy picture” of the future.

Refugees/Immigration

Emmer: “I don't care where you come from or how you got here. If you're here to make your American dream, we're here to serve you,” said Emmer. 

Zahradka: “Minnesota has taken in so many amazing people that are in need. And of course, they're good for Minnesota,” said Zahradka.

She brought up the Muslim community in St. Cloud and how they are just people who want a roof over their heads, a good education, and a fair shot. 

Closing Statements

Emmer: For his closing statement, Emmer said he is honored to serve the 6th District and is asking his district to vote for him again. He talked about the work he’s done with mental health and transportation, and stressed how there is still work to be done such as expanding broadband and controlling the debt deficit.

“We need to remember we are all Minnesotans. We are all Americans, and we need to get together and start working in the same direction,” said Emmer.

Zahradka: For her closing statement, Zahradka dug into Emmer and said that he goes back on his word and supports a president who does the same. At the end of her statement, she said she doesn't want anybody’s money, but she does want their vote.

“I don't have a lot of money, but I ask for your vote. And I give you my word. I will never let you down and I will never lie to you,” said Zahradka.

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