Welcome to WCCO.com’s 2020 political guide!

We reached out to all Minnesota candidates running for U.S Senate and U.S Congress this fall. Candidates were asked to provide a two-minute video discussing their platform as well as answer a set of our viewers’ questions.

Above is the video and below are the answers Dean Phillips provided. This is not a paid advertisement nor does WCCO endorse any candidate.


Responses from Dean Phillips, Democratic candidate for the 3rd District

Do you believe racial disparities exist in Minnesota and across the country? If so, what policy changes would you propose to combat this?

There is no question that racial disparities exist, both here and around the country. The question is: why? If you believe – as I do – that all people are created equal, then the only explanation can be that some people benefit from our policies and structures and others do not. I have never walked in the shoes of a person of color, but like many, I have spent a good amount of time listening and learning about what it’s like to be Black or Brown in America. Those conversations have been productive, profound, and sometimes they’ve been challenging. But every single one of them has been important, because we won’t be able to move forward together as a nation until we recognize the very real economic, civil, and social inequities that Black and Brown Americans experience – and make a plan to do better. This includes criminal justice reforms and redoubling our efforts to ensure that every child graduates high school ready to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy. Four hundred years of injustice cannot be fixed overnight, but we’ve been given a window of opportunity to make change together, and I intend to do my part.

Do you believe the federal government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been adequate? If not, what could have been done differently? Do you believe there should be a national mask mandate?

The sad truth is that this Administration could have prevented the deaths of tens of thousands of our fellow Americans had the President simply followed the advice of epidemiologists and medical experts rather than downplaying – as he has admitted to doing – the severity of COVID-19.

The playbook for how to deal with such an outbreak was literally written and left on the President’s desk by the Obama-Biden Administration. Had that guidance been followed, we likely would have seen fewer deaths and we might have had the same fate as other countries who have reopened safely already. Instead, as I sit here today, we are approaching 200,000 deaths, and we have seen the loss of countless livelihoods as inaction at the federal level resulted in even greater economic devastation, especially for small businesses and the self-employed.

No one wins when we politicize public health, so in the absence of strategic leadership from the White House, I helped lead my colleagues on the Problem Solvers Caucus – comprised of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans – in introducing a bipartisan framework to contain the spread of COVID-19, safely reopen our economy, manufacture the supplies we need here in America, and deliver urgent relief to families, workers, and small businesses. That plan is available online for all who wish to see it. I only wish the Administration had followed it.

I trust science and I believe wearing a mask is one of the most patriotic things Americans can do to help get us through this crisis. Scientists are telling us that widespread mask usage will save lives and get us back to the work and activities we love – and we should listen.

What policy changes would you propose to jump-start the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic? Should the federal government pass an additional stimulus bill? If so, what should it include?

We’re facing the worst economic recession and public health emergency of our lives – at the same time. This is a crisis and the federal government has a responsibility to help get us through it as healthy, economically sound, and prepared for the future as possible.

There’s reason to hope – my bipartisan bill to make urgent relief more usable for small businesses, the PPP Flexibility Act, passed almost unanimously through a divided Congress and was signed into law by the President. It helped millions of American small business owners keep their doors open, and it was all possible because Chip Roy (R, TX) and I listened to our constituents, put our differences aside, wrote sound policy, and built a strong coalition.

And that was just the beginning. This month, my friend and colleague Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and I joined the Co-Chairs of Problem Solvers Caucus, Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Tom Reed (R-NY), in proposing a bipartisan framework to help break the impasse on COVID-19 relief negotiations and inspire leadership from both parties to come back to the table. As of this writing, I am hopeful that it has done just that. Our success in addressing this pandemic has only been thanks to swift, bipartisan action — and that is needed again if we are to blunt the effects of this pandemic and ensure support for teachers and students, hospitals and healthcare workers, small businesses, and American families who are struggling.

What do you think is the root cause of the civil unrest in our community and across the country?

Unequal treatment under the law, coupled with a lack of equal opportunity, is the root cause of the recent civil unrest in our community and across the country. Instead of working to console our nation and bridge our divides, however, President Trump has sought to fan the flames of division and sow both fear and hate for his own political gain. I reject that approach. Violence in any form must be forcefully condemned, and I have done so. Yet we must also condemn – and work tirelessly to change – those policies and practices that have for generations kept our Black, Brown and Indigenous brothers and sisters from experiencing the same freedoms, the same opportunities, and the same sense of security that many of us enjoy – especially in communities like ours. We cannot guarantee equal outcomes, but we can work to fulfill the promise of America by guaranteeing equal opportunities for all. It’s long past time we do so.

Do you believe that funding for police departments should change, and if so, how should those funds be redirected? Should the federal government implement national police standards?

As a Gold Star Son, I have the utmost respect for those who wear a uniform and put their lives on the line to keep us safe. That is why I am honored to have earned the endorsement of the Minnesota Peace and Police Officers Association, the state’s largest organization representing law enforcement professionals.

I engage regularly with law enforcement officials throughout our community and am proud that many of our Third District police departments are leading on innovations in public safety, from hiring social workers to assist officers responding to delicate family situations to investing in community relations to build trust with those they serve and protect.

I am pleased that Minnesota came together in a bipartisan fashion to pass criminal justice and police reforms, most recently in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. I remain hopeful that Congress can do the same. We need national standards to ensure equal protection and equal justice under the law. We also need to reimagine our approach to public safety, because we have asked our police departments to deal with far too much for far too long. We cannot expect any police officer to be equipped to deal with everything from the opioid and meth epidemics to a national mental health crisis – particularly without the necessary training and support to do so. That is why I would like to see greater investments of time and resources in these areas by policymakers, as well as a renewed focus on the root causes of crime.

Do you believe the government should subsidize broadband internet access for rural areas? Should public school districts reimburse families for the cost of distance learning?

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of our nation’s shortcomings, and the lack of access to high-speed broadband is one of them. I believe that universal broadband access is the rural electrification of our time. Even here in the Third District, a mostly suburban and relatively affluent part of our state, we have families and schools and businesses who do not have reliable access to high-speed broadband, a fact my staff and I heard frequently as we visited every city and town in our district in early 2019. This is unacceptable. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that an entrepreneur in Worthington is able to start and grow a new business online the same way an entrepreneur in Wayzata can – because we all benefit from that innovation, and the jobs and revenue that come with it.

Access to high-speed broadband is not just a geographic concern, however. Distance learning could exacerbate achievement gaps if access to the internet becomes a barrier for families who do not have or cannot afford it. Our schools are already cash-strapped, thanks in part to the federal government’s failure to fully fund federal education mandates, but I do believe there should be some mechanism to ensure that every child has access to the tools and technology they need to learn at home.

Do you think the current Minnesota gun laws are adequate? If not, what changes would you make?

I am one of the millions of responsible gun owners in this country who believe we need to do more to prevent gun violence. During my first term I released far too many statements mourning the loss of innocent lives at the hands of a shooter using a weapon of war. Thoughts and tweets won’t end our nation’s gun violence epidemic — but courage and action can. That’s why in Congress I have supported universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders, an assault weapons ban, investments to address our nation’s mental health crisis, and finally allowing the CDC to study the root causes of gun violence and report back on the best and most effective ways to prevent it.

Do you support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana?

Yes. Federal marijuana prohibition has been ineffective and resulted in a disproportionate amount of low-level, non-violent Black and Brown Americans being sent to prison. It has also kept American veterans and patients from accessing treatment that can improve their lives.

By looking to states as laboratories, we can recommend the best federal marijuana policy – and I believe it’s time to do so. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use would also inject much-needed revenue into federal and state budgets, open up equal access to medical treatment, and allow law enforcement to devote more resources to serious crimes.

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