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Guest views: Five questions with local GOP and DFL leaders

 

February 12, 2021



We posed five questions to the leaders of Carlton County’s political party organizations about the state of politics today. Tony Sheda is the chairman of the Carlton County Republicans and Patty Murto is chairwoman of the Carlton County DFL.

DFL-Patty Murto

Q: We had a tide-turning election in November, especially on the national front. Where do you envision politics going in the next few years?

Murto: The Republicans in the U.S. Senate are trying to figure out a way to allow Trump off the hook for inciting violence against our Congress as they attempted to certify the results of the state-certified votes. Only five brave Republican senators voted with Democrats to hold Trump accountable.

As more investigations continue, we will find out who Republican representatives gave private tours to the day before the insurrection.

Where Congress is at now, I don’t see the ability for a whole lot of the old-fashioned collegiality taking place. Seated is a Republican representative who called for a bullet to Pelosi’s head and insists on carrying a weapon in the House chamber. That is just nuts.

Such threats have occurred in a lesser, but still meant to be intimidating, way right here in Carlton County.

Q: The 8th district has been trending red, but Carlton County still leans left. Do you expect that to change or evolve?

Murto: Carlton County had a much larger Republican turnout this past November. We did not lose Democratic votes and I’m not sure this will be a continued trend, but I suspect it might. If I were to gauge it by anti-maskers, I would suspect a larger Republican turnout in the future. I could go into all of the legitimate reasons why this is a huge mistake, but until the discussion centers around facts, I don’t see a way forward.

There is a government that is supposed to work for us, and we elect folks to do that work for us. Government cannot be controlled by either the far left or the far right, and all elected officials need to work from the same facts. I’m thinking Rep. Mike Sundin’s dislike of social media is a very good thing when I read the social media posts sent out by the state Republican caucuses. It’s gone long past spin and into intentional deception.

Q: What are some specific initiatives you’d like to see on the state and local level?

Murto: If the pandemic did anything, it shined a very bright light on the discrepancies in funding school districts, which affected each district’s ability to open or to be able to provide online learning to all of its students, including those who had no computer access prior to closure. It made it clear we have a dire shortage of substitute teachers in the region. It also showed that rural Minnesota, including Carlton County, has been left behind in building the superhighway of broadband. It limits businesses. It limits people’s ability to work from home, start their own internet businesses and attend college. It needs to be a high-priority infrastructure project, and we need the economic development employees at the county level to be writing grants for our area. We could also ask the Blandin Foundation for assistance in helping to bring more access to our county.

Q: Can divided state government work in today’s era of polarization?

Murto: Divided state government has worked in Minnesota for years. Hopefully they can reach compromises on major issues. With the devastation that the pandemic has created, I am hopeful that the Republicans will agree that much more needs to be spent to support our restaurants and bars that followed the rules and our schools that spent money they never would have spent if not for the pandemic.

A bonding bill is a must to put people back to work. The government has built state parks, bridges and other infrastructure in the past after great depressions. Now is the time again to give our unemployed an opportunity for good-paying jobs.

Q: With talk of healing politically and recovery from the Covid19 pandemic, what are some steps you’d recommend in getting back to a sense of unity or normalcy in the community?

Murto: As we try to get back to some kind of normalcy, we have to agree on the facts. We can differ on how we want to solve problems, but we can’t go forward in solving those problems if we can’t agree there is a problem and that we want to solve that problem.

We have a pandemic killing all kinds of folks. I have lost more than one close friend. I have other friends who didn’t die but have major health issues. People who decided that staying alive was a political issue, instead of a health issue, have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Because folks decided it was their right to go maskless regardless of others’ health and defy every governor’s order have allowed Covid to continue to spread; and the more it spreads, the more it mutates. If it keeps mutating before everyone is vaccinated it will never go away.

Republicans in the state Senate have played the game of pitting one group against the other: metro vs. rural, Covid-aware vs. Covid deniers. If there always has to be a boogeyman, we will not come together.

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GOP-Tony Sheda

Q: We had a tide-turning election in November, especially on the national front. Where do you envision politics going in the next few years?

Sheda: On the national front, I believe the GOP is at a crossroads. I see our party on two fronts.

Party A stands with former president Donald Trump. We had four years of babies’ lives being saved, not worrying about gun control, jobs, less regulations, challenging China and Iran.

Then we have Party B: Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Kevin McCarthy badmouthing Trump. Yes, President Trump is not perfect. He has flaws. All of us do.

It’s interesting how a rich man could identify with millions of us. Those of you who hate him will see that he will be ruined financially.

Q: The 8th district has been trending red, but Carlton County still leans left. Do you expect that to change or evolve?

Sheda: The Eighth Congressional District is large, with a Democratic part and a GOP part. From the response we had in the past year at rallies and sign waves, it looked like we couldn’t lose. In August, when now President Joe Biden came to Duluth, 350 of us greeted him. How President Trump lost, I don’t know. But we had many victories in the U.S. House, state legislature. Locally Jeff Dotseth lost in a very close race (to Rep. Mike Sundin). We have work to do and you will be hearing from us.

Q: What are some specific initiatives you’d like to see on the state and local level?

Sheda: At the state level, I’d like to see simple politics. No fancy maneuvering, no “We’ll do this so in the future you’ll do this.” Locally, I’d like our congressional district to have a one-stop place. As it is, we have to scramble to get signs, stickers, etc. for our fairs and rallies. So if we and the campaigns could go to a central body, it would help all of us. GOP supporters meet once a month in McGregor. Why not move meetings around the district?

Q: Can divided state government work in today’s era of polarization?

Sheda: Divided government is a system of checks and balances in order to have debate. It is not pretty, but it serves to stop one party from controlling government. The 2020 election has given the Democratic Party control in Washington. They can pass laws for more abortions, restricting the Second Amendment, canceling the Keystone pipeline and thousands of jobs, open borders, punitive impeachment. Honest debate is one thing. Hate for Trump and conservatives is another. It will take a long time before we heal.

Q: With talk of healing politically and recovery from the Covid19 pandemic, what are some steps you’d recommend in getting back to a sense of unity or normalcy in the community?

Sheda: Why did Gov. Tim Walz, with Rep. Mike Sundin’s blessing, shut down our small businesses but allow big-box stores to remain open? Did Covid stop there but go into small businesses, churches and schools? I saw people closer together in Menards than in our church, where two-thirds of the pews are blocked. A family restaurant was harassed by the state for petty stuff. Why? What will be the long-term damage to our kids? There is risk in opening up but there is also risk in shutting down the state. Use precautions, but open up.

 
 

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