Q&A with Senate District 53 challenger Sharna Wahlgren
City of residence: Maplewood
Years lived in district: I was born here. I have lived in or within a block of our district essentially all of my life.
Education: J.D., cum laude, University of Minnesota Law School (1993); bachelor’s, magna cum laude, University of Minnesota (1989); majors: economics, political science; minor: international relations; Harding High School (1986)
Occupation: Attorney, with a practice largely focused on patent matters. I’ve worked as a public defender, served as city attorney and worked in private practice for more than 20 years.
Notable community and civic involvement: I have been honored to serve on the boards of a number of nonprofits in our community, including the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies, Minnesota Intellectual Property Law Association and the Hennepin County Bar Foundation. I have also provided a variety of pro bono legal services to many in our community.
Contact: Website: Sharna4us.com; email: Sharna@Sharna4us.com; phone: (651) 321-4253; Facebook: Sharna4us; Twitter: @Sharna4us
Why are you running for this office?
I’m offering to serve because in many ways, we’re headed in the wrong direction. Hardworking Minnesota families are struggling to get by while legislators are spending more and more of our money on pet projects and in ways that don’t make a meaningful difference. The lack of transparency and accountability is frustrating. Like many of you, I am disappointed by what’s going on in the legislature, especially this year. It’s time for a new direction. I know we can do better!
What are the biggest issues in the district you're running for?
As I continue to meet people all over the community, a few issues come up more than others:
Health care that is truly affordable for everyone. Right now, we’re penalizing families – actually fining them! – just because they can’t afford health insurance. That’s wrong. Chances are, health care costs and skyrocketing premiums are causing you, or someone you know, a great deal of stress. Our current senator and other legislators promised to get health care costs under control, but they haven’t. Instead, costs continue to increase; that’s the wrong direction.
Great education for all kids – with parents empowered to make the best decisions for their children and teachers empowered to do their best teaching. Too often, parents are left on the sideline or surprised by changes in their child’s education. Parents need to be back in the driver’s seat. In the classroom, we need to make sure we retain the best, most passionate teachers and trust them to do their jobs.
Lower taxes. Total taxes -- property, income, sales, et cetera -- collected in Minnesota have increased by nearly 20 percent in just four years. With Gov. Mark Dayton and the Democrats’ tax increases, we now have some of the highest rates in the entire country. Broad, meaningful tax relief is long overdue.
In short, we need to focus on making sure everyone has a path to a thriving middle class. To do that, we need more common sense and innovation.
What are your thoughts on proposed transit and transportation projects in the east metro?
Transportation has been a top issue at the legislature for years, and what do we have to show for it? Bridges are still falling apart; roads are congested and riddled with potholes. As I meet more and more people, it’s clear they want legislators to stop using trains to hold up progress on things that affect most people in this state – roads and bridges. The inconvenience caused by road construction is a real issue; disruptive road repair projects need to get done faster and better.
The biggest transit project being considered for the east metro is the Gold Line or bus-rapid transit (BRT) project which comprises roads and bridges dedicated for buses only (not shared with cars). It doesn’t make sense to build this infrastructure only for buses, particularly with the very high price tag of about $500 million. It will cost even more to subsidize the ridership every year. I support more effective ways to improve bus service. The great thing about buses is that they can be driven on the roads we already have, and they can be shifted and adjusted to meet demand. It’s critical we continue to improve bus service, but dedicated bus roadways are not the right approach.
What distinguishes you from the other candidate?
I’m not the incumbent. I’m running because, like many of you, I am not happy with how things are going. We need to do better. We need new ideas and new representation.
I believe in personal freedom and responsibility. You know what is best for your family. Kent believes in big government and one-size-fits-all programs that make decisions for you and your family. I want a government that serves us; Kent wants you to serve the government.
I have a degree in economics. We need to spend more wisely, always considering costs and benefits. Government growth is out of control, because too many elected officials don’t consider how their decisions impact real families. I won’t make that mistake.
Too often, we see those in government simply rehashing the same arguments, figuratively tossing a ball back and forth without delivering results. They seem to think that spending more is the only option. We need more creativity. I’ve spent my career working with inventors and innovators, and I will find ways to do things better, more efficiently, more effectively -- and less expensively. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?