UNDATED -- In the race for the Minnesota Senate in District 14 incumbent Republican Jerry Relph is being challenged by Democrat Aric Putnam.

Relph is running for his second term. Putnam has previously run for the Minnesota House in both 2016 and also in 2018.

When it comes to the state's response to the COVID-19 crisis Relph says he was the first state lawmaker to step up to the plate.

I was the first legislator to take any action at all with regard to COVID before there had even been a case in Minnesota.  I introduced and got the first bill that funded the Minnesota Department of Health in their response to the coming COIVD crisis.

Relph says he would like to see the Governor's executive powers end, but he would be in favor of phasing them out with a transition period.

Putnam says the pandemic has become too politicized and probably should have been handled differently from the outset.

Had I been governor I would have initially appointed or created an office to oversee all COVID efforts, sort of a COVID czar or something along those lines, to de-politicize the process, because to me that's become the most problematic, every little thing we might do for our public health becomes a political football.

Aric Putnam, photo by WJON.com's Alex Svejkovsky

Since the death of George Floyd in May there has been a lot of talk about police reform. Relph says the State Legislature quickly passed the Police Accountability Bill during the 2nd special session this summer.

They provide support and encouragement for the departments that are doing it right.  They provide some new tools, they provide sort of an early warning system when an officer is having difficulties they can seek peer counseling and they can get some assistance.

Putnam says he comes from a family with a lot of police officers in it. His grandfather was a cop, his uncle was a sheriff's deputy, and he has three cousins who are currently cops, so he is not in favor of the calls to defund police departments.

I do not want to defund the police.  I think that's a complete fabrication.  It's actually happening right now.  Often times in political advertising people bend the truth, we've come to expect that from politicians, but these mailers and ads saying I want to defund the police are outright lies.

Whoever gets elected to the state legislature one of their biggest tasks will be to balance what is expected to be a large budget deficit. Putnam says we have to get the coronavirus under control first.

The economy is never going to be back to where it needs to be unless we deal with the public health crisis first.  Then, once we do start talking about what we can do with the state for the economy a lot of the half measures that were passed by the legislature to help with the COVID response and our economy didn't actually make it to the people.

Relph says the budget deficit the state is facing will require some real cuts.

We're definitely going to have to cut things somewhere, and I mean truly cut not just lessen the increase.  If we have a $10 billion deficit facing us, we're at $48 billion right now, you have to cut something.

Early voting for the general election begins Friday. Election day is Tuesday, November 3rd.

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