ST. PAUL — Two candidates have filed to run for the Minnesota House of Representatives District 22A seat. They shared some of their policy positions with The Globe.
Occupation: Property assessor
Current residence: Slayton
What qualifications do you have for the office of Minnesota Representative? I have no experience as an elected representative. I do, however, have a lot of life experience. I grew up on a small farm 60 miles down the road from Slayton, across the Minnesota border, in South Dakota. I spent six years in the Army National Guard to help pay for the degree I earned from Minnesota State, Mankato. I’ve worked a variety of jobs, from sales and purchasing, to construction management. The last 3+ years I’ve been an assessor for Murray County. I also officiate a variety of sports. I love to meet people, listen to their stories and try to understand their point of view. I hope to work with both parties to find compromise and serve the good people of southwest Minnesota.
What are your top priorities in state government? Health care. We have an aging population in southwest Minnesota. In addition to that, three out of 10 households in southwest Minnesota have an income below $35,000, and an additional 14% have incomes below $50,000 (http://www.mncompass.org/profiles/region/southwest). The cost of health care leaves many families with a minimal margin — a margin that doesn’t allow them to invest in our local economy. I will work to make sure health care is affordable and accessible to everyone in Minnesota.
Education. I will find revenue to make sure education is properly funded so we can recruit and retain the best quality teachers for our children.
Criminal justice reform. We imprison more people than any country in the world. Our money could be better spent on treatment for non-violent drug offenders. We have no private prisons in Minnesota, and I would keep it that way.
How will you advocate for the needs of rural Minnesota in St. Paul? I would network and get to know members of both parties to find common ground. I would also be available to my constituents so that I can understand what those needs are.
Please describe your vision for recovering from economic losses caused by COVID-19. These are uncertain times that will require a bipartisan solution. COVID-19 has affected regions of the state differently. There may not be a “one size fits all” solution. I will advocate for the needs of my district.
What do you see as the best solution for preventing deaths like that of George Floyd? I believe the protests are not just going to go away. We need societal change when it comes to the disenfranchised segments of our society. The economy, the educational system and the criminal justice system need to work for everyone. I think that those who represent us need to reflect on how best to achieve this, and find a bipartisan approach.
Joe Schomacker (incumbent)
Occupation: Main Street business owner
Current residence: Luverne
What qualifications do you have for the office of Minnesota Representative? I have lived in southwest Minnesota my entire life; the values we share are my foundation. I am pragmatic and willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with me. Southwest Minnesota needs someone who understands the importance balancing strong beliefs while being able to find opportunities to compromise. I am humbled that for 10 years the people of southwest Minnesota have sent me to represent them in St. Paul and am asking for them to do so again.
What are your top priorities in state government? We need to get Minnesota back up and open for business. My own business was one that was initially affected by the state's economic shutdown, and I still don't understand why. People understand and they take seriously the spread of COVID-19, and with that can get back to work.
Minnesota's economic shutdown will have serious ramifications on the state budget. A multi-billion-dollar budget deficit is in the works, and it cannot be balanced on the backs of the people who the state shut down. State lawmakers need to learn once again to live within their means and operate their budget the same way many families had to relearn how to operate their budgets over the last few months.
How will you advocate for the needs of rural Minnesota in St. Paul? The differences between Greater Minnesota and The Cities are growing wider. We see more and more how difficult it is to pass policies that have a one-size-fits-all approach to them. It's never been more important to analyze legislation with a rural Minnesota lens. Folks in southwest Minnesota have always been more than helpful in providing me with the information I need to advocate for them. We also need to work hard at building coalitions within the legislature to get the bigger job in front of us done, and that coalition needs to be broadened.
Please describe your vision for recovering from economic losses caused by COVID-19. Get people back to work. Get businesses open again. People need to be responsible, yes, to protect from spreading this virus to others. No one wants to be known in town as the one who spread this coronavirus to everyone else in town. There is great incentive for people to take precautions to avoid that spread.
Unlike the federal government, Minnesota does not print its own money and is required to balance its budget. Large relief packages are not in our future. But we can look at policy relief as a way to help struggling job creators grow. Federal conformity on Section 179 tax policy is the first place I'll look. Then I'm going to look at the regulations that were halted by the governor's executive orders to see if any of those are worth keeping to help the economy.
What do you see as the best solution for preventing deaths like that of George Floyd? Law enforcement professionals go to their job every day with no knowledge of how that day is going to end. Because they interact with the general public more than anyone else, we ask a tremendous lot of them, particularly in the area of mental health. Our peace officers need to have the resources and ability to train more and recruit better, but in law enforcement, mental health needs to be separate from those duties. And there needs to be greater ability to discipline and remove those officers who shouldn't be officers.