*We are continuing our Meet the Candidates conversations for the November 3rd, 2020 elections. We recently talked with Dale Menk (DFL) running for MN House District 10a. You can see his facebook page here.
It is our goal to give you information so you can go to the polls ready to vote.
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*KAXE/KBXE News and Public Affairs Director Heidi Holtan recently spoke with Dale Menk. The following transcript has been edited for clarity. The audio of this interview is available at the top of this page.
(Heidi Holtan) Q: Dale Menk is the DFL candidate for Minnesota House District 10A. It is currently held by Republican Josh Heintzeman. This district includes Crow Wing County and towns like Brainerd and Baxter, Nisswa, and Pine River. Dale Menk joins us now. Thanks for being with us today.
(Dale Menk) A: Well, thanks for having me.
Q: Why are you running for office?
A: I originally decided to run for office after talking to Josh Heintzeman about a couple of issues that I was passionate about, and I felt that he did not have time to listen to my concerns. And the more I started thinking about it, I thought people really need somebody who is going to at least try to represent everybody, is going to listen to their concerns and take those concerns into consideration when making decisions at the Capitol.
Q: Let's talk about some of the things that are going on in your district. What are some of the highest priority issues that you're hearing from people?
A: Well, medical care is a big one; access to affordable health care. Another thing right now, being that our area is really heavily service-industry based, a lot of peoples jobs have been affected by COVID-19. And small businesses being taken care of and getting the help they need to get through this crisis is a big, big concern right now.
Q: We are still in the midst of a pandemic. Minnesota was recently added to a list of 22 states with uncontrolled spread, and that pandemic has become very political, especially when it comes to the Walz administration and the Minnesota legislature. I wonder if you'd like to give your take on how the state has handled things so far?
A: I think Governor Walz has done the best he could given the situation. Right away, this thing became politicized. There was no support from the federal government. The states were kind of left on their own to deal with it. And like I said, small businesses really needed help, and they didn't get that. There was the one bill passed to help right away, but after that nothing has passed in the federal government. And so, our small businesses are not able to get the help they need, which means people are really, really pushing to get back to work and get their small businesses going again. I think given the circumstances, Governor Walz has done the best he could, and I think it's wrong for some of our legislators to say he's just going for a power grab, and he has extended state of emergency too long. I think he's really done the best he could and try to balance everybody's concerns all at once. And it's just that type of situation where it's a lose-lose situation.
Q: How has the pandemic been for you, you and your family, and in your jobs too?
A: Well, actually I'm one of the lucky ones. I work in building construction. So, of course my industry was considered essential. And my wife works for a local pharmacy here, so she was essential. So we've been very lucky. We haven't had to face a lot of the hardships that a lot of the people in the area have faced. For us, it's been kind of normal, other than we don't go out in public as much as we used to, because it's just responsible to distance yourself. But other than that we've actually been really lucky. It just makes me feel for the people who haven't been.
Q: And how about for your kids in school?
A: Actually, we only have one child still in school, and this year we decided to go with distance learning because I was worried about the spread of COVID-19 in the schools. I'm glad I did because Brainerd high school has already been shut down (that's the school my child attends), because of COVID cases. So we're taking it one day at a time and, and doing the best we can as well.
Q: We're talking with Dale Menk today. He is the Democrat who is running for House District 10A in Crow Wing County. Sometimes on campaigns, you hear "our way of life" or "rural values." What does that mean to you?
A: To me, rural values is really caring about your neighbor, helping out when you can, and taking care of each other. And I think that a legislator from our area should really do that. A lot of the reason I'm running is because I want to help the people in our area make the lives that they want for themselves. I want the people in our area to be able to achieve a good quality of life. And, that's why I'm running. There's a lot of reasons I'm running, but it all boils down to that.
Q: You said this at the beginning, when I asked why you wanted to run for this seat, about hearing all the constituents. How do you think you'll go about doing that? Not just the people who vote for you if you are voted into office.
A: Well, all I would say is I'm willing to listen to anybody that has a concern they want to bring. If they can present me with facts and data to back up their point of view, I'm all for it. And I'll take it into consideration. I think one of the biggest things a legislator needs to be able to do is set aside their own biases and personal opinions about something and be able to listen with an open mind. And if the data doesn't back up their own point of view, well then maybe they should change it.
Q: I took a look at your website, dalemenk4mn10a.com. And one of the things you had listed there, among many, had to do with equality for all. So what does that mean to you?
A: Right now, we're facing a situation where more and more discrimination in the justice system is coming to light. And I support our local police officers here. [They're] wonderful. Just because I think our justice system is flawed does not mean that I am against the police. I think we need work there. I think we need work in making sure that our schools are inclusive of our students. I believe everybody deserves an equal chance to succeed in life. And people discriminated against, it needs to be addressed
Q: Before we go, one of the things that keeps coming up in these candidate conversations has to do with rural daycare or daycare in small towns. It really affects more than just the families, but the business climate. Have you been hearing that from people, and what are your thoughts?
A: Daycare is a big concern around here as well. I know we've had a decline in daycares over the past, probably the past decade or so. It's really hard for working people to actually go to work when they can't find childcare. So I think that's one of the issues that needs to be addressed, whether it's...do we need to take a look at the regulations we have in childcare, or do we need to put more money towards childcare assistance? I don't know what the right answer is, but it's definitely something that we need to have a conversation about and work on, so that people can go to work and make sure their child is well cared for.
Q: I can imagine that campaigning in a pandemic can't be the easiest thing to do. And yet, we all keep getting giant postcards in our mailbox with pretty negative stuff coming from many sides. How would you go about doing this and what would you like to tell people about some of the things that exist out there about this campaign process?
A: Well, I think we've gotten into a situation where there's too much political divisiveness, too much negativity. I think people - especially special interest groups - are focusing more on dragging someone's name through the mud than they are about actually presenting ideas to improve the situation for people. I think if politicians and lobbying groups focused more on plans to actually improve quality of life for people, our political outlook would be much better. I know people are sick of the divisiveness and sick of the bad mouthing everybody, and it's not something that I support. I really want to get into office to help people. And I will not engage in that kind of behavior myself.
Q: That is Dale Menk. He is running for Minnesota House District 10A. He's a DFLer. Find more information at his website: dalemenk4mn10a. Thanks for your time.
A: Thank you for having me.