Opinion editor’s note: The Star Tribune Editorial Board operates separately from the newsroom, and no news editors or reporters were involved in the endorsement process.
The race to represent Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District is a matchup between Republican Rep. Tom Emmer, who is seeking his fourth term in the U.S. House, and political newcomer Tawnja Zahradka, a Democrat. The Star Tribune Editorial Board is not endorsing either in this race.
Zahradka, 55, is a veteran Twin Cities broadcaster and a longtime small-business owner. A Forest Lake resident, she is a fiery debater and passionate about workplace equity. She’s also been named a “gun sense” candidate by advocacy groups supporting sensible reforms for firearm ownership. While she’s a promising candidate, we’d like to see her broaden her policy expertise, particularly in agriculture, health care and transportation.
Emmer, 59, of Delano, is seeking a fourth term representing his district, which includes St. Cloud and northern and western Twin Cities suburbs. He has twice previously earned our endorsement. The attorney, former legislator and talk radio host differs sharply with us on key issues, especially health care and copper mining. But he previously won our respect and endorsement with his work ethic, trade expertise and a more inclusive leadership style. His ascent into party leadership ranks also gave him a chance to be a powerful advocate for Minnesota.
The decision to withhold the endorsement wasn’t easy, but it’s 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.
One example involves federal disaster aid for Twin Cities businesses damaged by the George Floyd protests. Because Emmer is a prominent Republican, his enthusiastic support for this aid could have been persuasive as federal officials made their decision. The July 9 letter he sent to President Donald Trump didn’t advocate against the aid, but it wasn’t helpful and was mainly concerned with finding fault for the unrest. The aid was denied. Emmer also should have done more since to reverse that decision.
Emmer’s leadership of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) also has been problematic. He serves as the chairman and his job is to recoup the GOP majority in 2020. But the NRCC’s unprofessional tactics, including juvenile nicknames and stunts, have “discomforted” other Republicans and the Editorial Board.
A Democratic New Jersey congressman recently received death threats from QAnon supporters in the wake of an NRCC political ad. The ad’s claim has been dubbed a falsehood by Washington Post fact-checkers.
Emmer has also defended the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, a stance at odds with reality. He also needs to be a stronger advocate for economic relief for individual Americans.
This troubled era needs more statesmen, not sharp-edged partisans. Minnesota, the nation and Emmer are not well-served by his decision to be the latter, not the former.