Senate District 61 voter’s guide: State Sen. Scott Dibble challenged by Jennifer Zielinski

Senate District 61

The Southwest Journal’s voter’s guide includes stories on the three competitive races for the Minneapolis School Board and questionnaires with candidates running for the U.S. House and the state House and Senate. We also include a rundown of everything you’ll see on your ballot, including an explanation of the city’s two referendums. You can read our full 2020 voter’s guide here.

Incumbent Scott Dibble is seeking a fifth term and faces Jennifer Zielinski, who ran as the GOP candidate for the U.S. House 5th District in 2018.

Dibble has won all of his state Senate races by at least 59 percentage points. He was in the state House for one term before being elected to the Senate in 2002.

District 61

Scott Dibble
Scott Dibble

DFL: Scott Dibble (incumbent)

Occupation: Legislator

Endorsements: Planned Parenthood Action Fund, OutFront Minnesota Action, Education Minnesota, Moms Demand Action Minnesota

Money raised/cash on hand: $53,876 (Jan. 1, 2017-July 20, 2020)/$1,956 (as of July 20)

Accomplishments and top priorities: I’m proud to have served as chief author or been a leader on the freedom to marry, bullying prevention, eliminating smoking indoors, transit funding, medical cannabis, coal mercury emissions, protecting abused elders, ending HIV/AIDS in Minnesota, homeless youth, renewable and efficient energy, and tenants’ rights. All of these were originated and championed by non-elected people — those most affected and in need of change. People are demanding an economy that works for everyone — jobs that pay, a democracy and elections that are fair, a government that functions well so people are not devastated by interruptions in employ- ment, accidents, illness or cruel inequalities.

Police reform and public safety: Communities where people have free and fair access to good jobs, decent housing, excellent education, high-quality health care, purpose and meaning, connections to one another, a clean environment and the ability to influ- ence their own government are the most safe, stable and secure places to be. I have introduced and supported many bills to improve police transparency, procedures, oversight, training, accountability and community relationships. An effective system of incident response, better communication and problem solving is an important change. Black and POCI Minneapolitans know the reality of their lives and what policies and practices will make a difference for the better.

Affordable housing and homelessness: People are working harder and earning less, with a tiny number of extremely rich benefiting. Housing is out of reach, or puts those who have it in a financially precarious position. A tax system designed by and for rich people is the culprit. More public funds for affordable housing, shelter and supportive services is vital. However, absent systemic solutions and changes to our economy, the gap will grow. More money in pockets through the Earned Income Tax Credit, stronger enforcement on banks’ obligations under the Community Reinvestment Act, funding for legal services, job training, childcare and healthcare are also important.

Systemic racial inequalities: Designing systems and devoting resources to level the playing field for those who face disadvantages and barriers, while putting those most affected at the center, in a position of leadership to meaningfully influence priorities and outcomes, is vital. No policy, program or appropriation should be passed absent an analysis to fully understand its racial, gender and economic effects. Officials must use their positions to talk about inequities, and how everyone benefits when they are dismantled. [I’m for the] elimination of structures so those who would subvert interests of the public in pursuit of profits don’t have special access and influence over governmental deliberations.

Jennifer Zielinski
Jennifer Zielinski

GOP: Jennifer Zielinski

Occupation: Financial services representative

Money raised/cash on hand: $100 (Jan. 1-July 20)/ $100 (as of July 20)

Qualifications and top priorities: I love living in South Minneapolis, and my goal every day in the Senate would be to make it a wonderful place for all residents, visitors, employees, and employers who live and work in Senate District 61. I have lived here for over 15 years and have made Minneapolis my home. Currently I work in health care. I understand that health care will be a changing field over the next few years. My goals in the Minnesota Senate would be education, criminal justice reform and the economy.

Police reform and public safety: Police reform and public safety are issues that can and should be approached on many levels. I would work on drug law reform and work to legalize marijuana. I also believe that bringing police and community leaders to the table to really work for the community will help us focus on what criminal justice resources we need. I also want to focus on restorative justice through the justice system.

Affordable housing and homelessness: I believe in the free-market approach to bringing the housing market costs down. I also believe we have to start to remove barriers in owning and renting. I would like to see more education and programs geared towards making this a reality for Minneapolis residents.

Systemic racial inequalities: [We need] to address the achievement gap in education. I believe our Minneapolis schools can be competitive with schools in the area, and I will work with the Minnesota Department of Education and Minneapolis School Board in order to make sure our children are successful for the future.