SD52 candidate forum held in the Inver Grove Heights city hall

2020 Election: State Legislature Candidate Forum

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While state legislative races aren’t exclusive to West St. Paul, they do represent us at the capital and it’s important to vote in these races. Town Square TV recently held a candidate forum for our district, Senate District 52. The district is represented by one senator and divided in half and represented by two representatives, one for 52A, which includes West St. Paul, and one for 52B.

Who’s Running?

The candidates are:

Senate District 52

House District 52A

House District 52B

(This district does not include West St. Paul)

The Candidate Forum

The Town Square TV candidate forum happened on September 16, but you can watch it online.

Here’s a quick summary of the responses to each question in the order they were given.

What are the top issues facing Minnesota?

  • Hansen: “COVID-19 impacts everything. Until we get it under control, we won’t have a strong economy.”
  • de la Paz: Talked about her 30 years of experience in health care and seeing the impacts of COVID-19 firsthand. She also mentioned the economy and riots impacting small businesses.
  • Richardson: “COVID-19 has shined a light on the deep inequities in our community.” She listed health care, education, and supporting small businesses as areas where these inequities became obvious.
  • Lonnquist: COVID-19, safety/security, and education. “We can’t afford to be unfriendly to business.”
  • Settell: COVID-19, safety/security, education, and government mandates. “Government should advise individuals and we as citizens should have the capacity to make choices for ourselves.”
  • Klein: The dual economic and health crisis of COVID-19.

In light of the pandemic, how should the state support businesses and residents?

  • Lonnquist: Create a more business friendly environment. Help residents feel safe by supporting law enforcement.
  • Richardson: A lot of the stimulus went to large businesses, we need to make sure it goes to small businesses. For residents, ensure every child can go to school and be safe.
  • Klein: We need to incentivize and reward people who are innovating. Get the infection under control so businesses can open. We can help residents with things like the governor’s eviction moratorium.
  • Settell: Remove the emergency order so the economy can stimulate itself. We need to trust business owners to take responsibility to do the right thing to keep people safe.
  • de la Paz: Employers have received more support than residents, and that’s a challenge we need to fix.
  • Hansen: Whoever is elected will have to deal with budget cuts or increases in fees. My experience as a problem solver will help.

What did the police reform accomplish and what still needs to be addressed?

  • Settell: Need additional oversight on procedures, but all our police officers have a desire to help and they shouldn’t be villainized.
  • Klein: We passed a ban on warrior training, we supported training police in best practices, and we need to do more work on addressing mental health.
  • Hansen: Hopefully what we passed will save lives, both for police and the people they come in contact with. We passed a variety of changes, and Dakota County leads in many of those areas, but there’s still work to be done. Having the difficult conversations is needed.
  • de la Paz: The current administration wants to defund the police. We do need to hold police accountable. It’s a dual thing—needs to come from the community and the police department.
  • Richardson: I carried three of the bills that passed—the ban on warrior training, and adding mental health and autism training. “The bills we passed actually increased funding for law enforcement.” We need to look at licensing and removing bad actors when there are problems.
  • Lonnquist: The bill only enhances what is already happening. There needs to be more of a partnership between law enforcement and unions.

What will you do to promote diversity, inclusiveness, and equality?

  • de la paz: We already do a lot. The media tells us there is this systemic racism, but we need to focus on the good that’s happening. I myself went to college and have been able to grow and prosper.
  • Hansen: One area where there hasn’t been much discussion of diversity is the environmental field. We need more diverse academic outreach so our conservation officers better reflect Minnesota. Making materials available in multiple languages will also help (chronic wasting disease, etc.).
  • Lonnquist: “What I don’t think is the right approach is condemning Minnesota as racist.” I’m proud of the diversity we have in the room. If there is a problem, the government isn’t always the solution. We should look to community leaders and find out what they need.
  • Richardson: “In Minnesota, indigenous students are 10 times more likely to be suspended or expelled as white students, Black students are eight times more likely, and disabled students are twice as likely. There are clear disparities.” That’s why I worked to ban preschool suspensions. We have work to do.
  • Klein: We need to work aggressively to fix healthcare disparities. Even when we control for socioeconomic status, we just treat people of color worse. We should create financial incentives to correct problems.
  • Settell: Shared parenting is an equality issue that doesn’t get enough attention. The state discriminates against fathers in custody arrangements.

How will you balance the state’s budget?

  • Richardson: We’re not going to have a surplus in 2021. To ensure we have a Minnesota that works for everyone, we’ll have to make difficult decisions.
  • Lonnquist: We’ve lost too many businesses due to our unfavorable tax climate. We need to fix that first. Then we should ask the heads of all agencies to make cuts.
  • Settell: Remove the state mandates around COVID-19. Most businesses owners are proud of what they do and will make choices with everyone’s health and safety in mind. Then we have to be fiscally responsible.
  • Klein: We’ll have to tighten our belts and hunker down. We need to work across the aisle to make hard decisions. One area to reform is health care—if we can incentive people to stay healthy we’ll save a lot of money.
  • Hansen: Reform and restructure to eliminate waste. Rather than across the board cuts or tax increases, we should target them to where they can have the most impact or do the least harm. We did that in the great recession and can do it again.
  • de la Paz: The budget will be a major issue because of COVID-19 and our existing infrastructure needs. COVID-19 has proved we can do without a lot of waste.

How do we make college more affordable and help graduates with debt?

  • Klein: We’ve created a negative incentive system, burdening students with debt and impairing their economic mobility. We need more subsidies and encourage more two-year degrees.
  • Settell: Two-year schools are essential for keeping costs low. We need to give students subsidies and grants and support programs where you can get loans wiped out by working in inner city areas.
  • de la Paz: Not everyone is built for college. We need to find ways to get people into the trades, from plumbing to construction.
  • Hansen: A bigger question is how we deal with the costs of the existing infrastructure our schools have in the midst of the pandemic and virtual learning.
  • Lonnquist: We need to stop giving our children the message that the only path to success is a four-year college degree. My father made a good living as a carpenter. I recommend students work their way through college.
  • Richardson: As someone who worked three jobs to pay my way through law school and still has debt, working your way through school isn’t enough. We need to ensure access to two-year degrees and make sure students are taking advantage of post-secondary enrollment options.

What should the state’s priority be for funding transportation?

  • Hansen: We need to support a variety of options, both for safety and for the new reality under COVID-19.
  • de la Paz: The costs will be tremendous because of our existing infrastructure. We had a mild winter, and that saved us somewhat, but it’s something that will have to be looked at, especially with the changes from COVID-19. I liked how the freeway was empty, but traffic is starting to pick up again and it will have to be addressed.
  • Richardson: We need to invest in our infrastructure to keep people safe and avoid a disaster like the 35W bridge collapse. Too many people have been struck by vehicles, so we need walkable streets and paths. We also need to invest in Metro Mobility for seniors and the disabled.
  • Lonnquist: Maintenance and upkeep on roadways is key and needs to be prioritized. As for new projects, given COVID-19 we need to pump the brakes and reevaluate.
  • Settell: We need to support current roads and bridges. We should also have appropriate bike and walking paths to avoid more incidents. Support and enhance services for the disabled.
  • Klein: To address climate change and make Minnesota an attractive place to live and work, we need a modern and green transit system. We should incentivize electric vehicles and build electric infrastructure.

Closing Remarks

  • Lonnquist: I want to make sure we have jobs and education available for our children and grandchildren. Most urgently, we need to create a business friendly environment so we stop losing businesses.
  • Richardson: I’ve proven I can work across the aisle to get things done, including authoring and passing 16 bills. If we want to attract businesses, we can’t do that without investing in our children.
  • Klein: As we move forward from COVID-19, we have an opportunity to make a Minnesota we believe in—healthcare for all, clean air and water, justice in our communities, strong public schools.
  • Settell: If you want freedom of choice in education, freedom in medical choices, and a fiscal conservative, vote for me.
  • de la Paz: I live by three words that define my narrative as a conservative—faith, family, freedom. We don’t want to lose our freedom and control over our children’s education. We need to have school choice.
  • Hansen: We’ve never done a forum like this before. The way we’ve always done it won’t work. We need to be innovative and make bold changes.

You can watch the SD 52 candidate forum online.

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(Full disclosure: Earlier this year I donated to Ruth Richardson’s campaign.)

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