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.

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

Responses from Tawnja Zahradka, Democratic candidate for the 6th District

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

Racial disparities exist, absolutely and are interspersed throughout the very foundation on which this nation was built.  I believe this can only be changed in a lasting way when we start generationally with educating our children and arming them with the truth.  We cannot continue to sugar coat our history. We must represent our founding fathers as the brilliant, yet conflicted, flawed human beings they were, as are we all.  We must teach our children that conflicting ideals can exist within people, even leaders, even themselves.  Most important, we must teach them that they have the power to make things right, by listening, honing their skills of empathy and understanding, befriending a person from another culture, preferably multiple people, by asking questions about that which they do not understand. We must believe in our children enough to realize they are capable of digesting the truth and changing things while their minds are unpolluted by rhetoric, old grudges, falsehoods and fears.

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?

Anyone who thinks the handling of this crisis is adequate has not been paying attention.  “No pain, no gain” comes to mind.  While shutting down entirely and imposing strict social distancing and masking guidelines is difficult and uncomfortable, it ultimately expediates the timetable for getting through this crisis.  The voluntary nature of guidelines, lack of enforcement and misinformation about the threat and the spread has only lengthened and prolonged our pain.  We need cohesive, coherent guidelines which are easily understandable and put the American people on the same page.  The sooner we quit making this into a partisan divide, have the full understanding and cooperation of all Americans, the sooner we can see daylight on the other side, just as most of the world has seen already by engaging in just such a protocol.

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?

The loopholes in the previous bills need to be closed so that only the working people and businesses who are legitimately harmed are eligible.  It is disturbing to hear stories about Amazon, Trump Corporation and Betsy DeVos collecting more than a half billion dollars, basically stealing it from the taxpayers, even as they just enjoyed a massive lopsided tax break which inordinately benefited the wealthiest Americans, just because they can.  All ill‐gotten gains need to be paid back to the American people.  As with so many problems in this country, there is often enough to go around if the abuses from the top 1% were not so outrageously perpetrated. We do need another stimulus bill as soon as possible.  People who followed the rules set forth by the government in order to stave off this Pandemic should not be penalized for doing the right thing.  Unemployment should be paid at a rate that is at least commensurate with the usual pay of the individual.  Protections need to be put in place that ensure nobody is left destitute or evicted, nor should landlords be afraid of losing their property due to lack of payment.  If we could freeze these penalties and give everybody in such peril a “time out” if necessary, it would take the pressure off of struggling families and landlords.  Money needs to be put into better distance education as the current experiment is putting massive stressors on parents and children alike and the programs currently running are less than exceptional.  We can do better than this.  I am an unapologetic Capitalist, but only with the caveat that no person should go hungry or become homeless in a society where so many make so much.  It is unconscionable.

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

I firmly believe that the root cause of civil unrest lies in disinformation and lack of understanding, as well as lack of desire to understand.  When people of protected classes fail to understand or even try to see beyond their own protections, we will always have a problem.  We must learn to listen when people tell us how they feel and moreover, take on the burdens they feel as our own.  “We” and “They” can be the most divisive words in the world.  DNA has shown us that we are 99.9% the same, yet we continue to divide ourselves along color, gender and class lines as if setting ourselves apart will elevate us.  Until we begin to teach our children, not only by words, but by example, that diversity is the paint with which the world is colored, nuanced, and shaped, we will never reach our full potential for growth and beauty in any arena.

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?

George Floyd’s death is an unthinkable tragedy and the collective heart of Minnesota aches for this man and his family. Sadly, this is not the first black eye Minnesota has endured in the National spotlight, but it must be the last. Unfortunately, terminology in the police reform effort has been greatly misunderstood. Language about police de‐funding has been widely disseminated as an end to policing. No reasonable person, including myself, would ever lobby for abolishing the police department or abdicating the responsibility of government to protect their citizenry from harm or provide crisis assistance and intervention. This assistance costs money, of course, and that money should be provided. Once again, we must ensure that these funds are used prudently, that the human beings in that department fully understand the purpose of their jobs and have a disposition and mindset to honor their commitment to that aim. There must be a ready remedy for corruption within police departments, no matter the seniority, and a mindset within the culture that encourages mass disapproval of bullying and abuse of power. Incentives should be based on the ability to work with the community, de‐escalate situations peacefully, and treat all people humanely to gain respect from those they serve rather than awarding raises based on arrest numbers. The goal should be common respect and courtesy for and by the police. I believe we can all agree on that.

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?

Yes and yes.  I can see no reason for anyone to object to these necessary actions.

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

I am a gun owner and a supporter of the 2nd Amendment.  While the initial purpose was to ensure our ability to protect ourselves from those who would do us harm, I also embrace the right to bear arms for the purposes of recreation.  That said, there may be no other Amendment which is as misunderstood.  I feel confident that our forefathers would not have wanted us to use our right to protect ourselves as an excuse to execute and maim at random.  No reasonable human being would want those whose judgement is compromised through mental illness or criminally violent tendencies to have access to weaponry.  We need to close the gun show loopholes, make the registration of weapons mandatory as with automobiles and other potential objects of misuse and abuse.  We must put forth commissions to study, fortify and enhance red flag laws and make sure our children can go to school without fear.

Do you support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana?

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Yes.  Alcohol use has proven to inflame violent tendencies in some individuals, while marijuana had a generally calming effect.  Yet, alcohol is legal, and marijuana is not.  In spite of all of the restrictions put in place to stop marijuana use, it has continued.  Aside from the many medical and utilitarian uses for cannabis and hemp, marijuana seems to be here to stay recreationally, as well.  Therefore, it makes no sense not to make sure it is regulated, taken out of the hands of illegal dealers who may contaminate the product or commit violent crimes in the trafficking process.   It is also a huge revenue producer.  Our farmers could be given a new opportunity for growth and our states given an avenue to fund important projects.  It is also time we release jailed marijuana offenders, now that even John Boehner and many others are legally profiting from cannabis. As even beneficial drugs can become addictive, either psychologically or physiologically, I do feel that some of the profits from tax revenue should be set aside for programs to curb addiction.