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Election 2020 preview: Minnesota's 6th Congressional district

Democrat Tawnja Zahradka challenges three-term Rep. Tom Emmer in the heavily Republican district.
Photos courtesy Tom Emmer and Tawnja Zahradka 

Photos courtesy Tom Emmer and Tawnja Zahradka 

Bring Me The News is looking at each of Minnesota's nine congressional races (nine House, one Senate) in the lead-up to Nov. 3.

Today we look at the 6th Congressional District, which is a Republican stronghold and covers Benton, Sherburne and Wright counties, as well as parts of Anoka, Carver, Stearns, Washington and Hennepin counties.

Who's running?

  • Tom Emmer (R-inc)
  • Tawnja Zahradka (D)

District map

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What happened last time?

Emmer, a three-term Representative since succeeding former Rep. Michele Bachmann in 2014, won re-election in 2018 with 22 percent more of the vote than Democrat Ian Todd. Todd ran again to represent the district as a Democrat in 2020, but Zahradka scored the DFL party nomination and won the primary.

The race so far:

The race hasn’t garnered much media attention, aside from their debate on MPR News. The Star Tribune editorial board opted not to endorse either candidate in this race, writing that neither “earned their recommendation.” The board has twice previously endorsed the candidate, and wrote that this year their decision not to endorse him was “grounded in actions where Emmer didn’t use his influence to advocate for the state or where he seems to have reverted to being the hard-elbowed partisan of his early career.” They wrote of Zahradka: “While she’s a promising candidate, we’d like to see her broaden her policy expertise, particularly in agriculture, health care and transportation.”

Emmer, who is also chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, faced criticism for boarding a Delta flight days after meeting with President Donald Trump, including a trip in Air Force One with fellow GOP Reps. Pete Stauber and Jim Hagedorn, just before Trump tested positive for Covid-19 test. Two of his “junior staffers” for his campaign tested positive for the virus, possibly spreading it while riding in the same car to place yard signs, he said, adding that he enforces masks in the office.

Where do candidates stand?

The candidates participated in a debate hosted by MPR News earlier this month, where they primarily squared off on the congressional coronavirus response and government spending.

On the coronavirus response:

  • Emmer highlighted the bipartisan CARES Act, and claimed further action for economic relief for Americans is being stalled by the upcoming election (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled his party doesn't want to pass a relief bill the size House Democrats are seeking before the election). On MPR, he said he would support PPP loan forgiveness for loans less than $150,000, providing additional funding for airline payroll programs, and targeted support for hospital and healthcare workers.
  • Zahradka said she supports extending unemployment benefits, freezing mortgage and rent and issuing another stimulus check. She also said she supports following safety measures such as wearing a mask and self quarantining when exposed to the virus.

On government spending:

  • Emmer emphasized that Congress is approaching $30 trillion in federal spending – which has grown under the Trump Administration even before COVID – and that he believes in a targeted, conservative stimulus package to avoid worsening the deficit. "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,” he said.
  • Zahradka emphasized tax cuts for wealthy Americans have also contributed to the federal deficit, suggesting that everyone should contribute taxes in a proportionate amount according to what they make. She focused the rest of her response on the urgency of the coronavirus crisis, accusing Emmer of “painting a rosy picture” of the future.

More information about candidates' stances on various issues can be found on their websites below:

Rep. Tom Emmer

Tawnja Zahradka 

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