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Fact check: Law enforcement claims made by Stauber, Schultz in first debate

They each brought up each other's records on policing and public safety.

Jen Schultz and Pete Stauber stand behind podiums in WDIO's studio during the debate.
A screenshot of the debate between Minnesota's 8th Congressional candidates, state Rep. Jen Schultz, a Democrat from Duluth, and U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican from Hermantown, in WDIO's studio Wednesday.
Contrbuted / WDIO
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DULUTH — In their first debate of the election cycle, Minnesota’s 8th District candidates, U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican from Hermantown, and his Democratic challenger, state Rep. Jen Schultz, of Duluth, argued over who supported the police the most.

The 40-minute debate hosted by WDIO on Wednesday evening covered a wide range of topics, but often kept coming back to policing and public safety.

Here’s a fact-check of some of the biggest claims made by each candidate.

Stauber points to 2020 questionnaire

Stauber, former Duluth police officer, claimed Schultz “publicly pledged to an anti-police group that she was going to defund the police, end cash bail, allow felons to vote, end minimum sentencing and release violent criminals from jail.” He later held up a copy of a candidate questionnaire from the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition that Schultz filled out in 2020 to prove his point.

But Stauber misrepresented her answers to the questionnaire, still available through the Internet Archive.

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In response to a question on what changes should be made to police budgets, Schultz wrote: “Police budgets should be revised to finance the redistribution of some police responsibilities, including dealing with mentally ill or handicapped people, dealing with issues related to public intoxication, and management of family disputes and abuse by professionals trained in those issues and in counseling for them.”

She also proposed that most traffic enforcement should be “enforced and managed by a separate division from the criminal division.”

Her only use of the word “defund” was “we should defund the militarization of the police,” calling it inappropriate for community police as it leads to “unnecessary and a dangerous escalation.”

Schultz did not call for an end to cash bail entirely but did urge reform. She wrote: “It needs to be abolished for most non-violent crime, and used only for people whose low levels of connection to the community or whose wealth make flight a very strong possibility.”

Similarly, she did not explicitly address “minimum sentencing” or say it should end, as Stauber suggested. Instead, she said “sentencing guidelines'' were “abused beyond their usefulness” and wrote “Judges, probation personnel, and ideally a community board should decide sentencing.”

She did not say violent criminals should be released from jail, as Stauber said she wrote.

She said one of the purposes of incarceration was “protection of the community. This applies only to a very limited number of people who are potentially either physically dangerous or prone to repeat crimes on a regular basis.”

Stauber was correct in saying she supported felons voting. On voting, she wrote: “People discharged from prison should be able to vote, even if they are on parole.” In Minnesota, a felony is defined as a crime that could result in a prison sentence of one year or more .

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Schultz points to no votes

Schultz said Stauber votes against the interest and funding of police, pointing to his vote against the investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection, which left many Capitol Police injured. That is true.

“He voted against the consideration of a package of bills to promote and invest in law enforcement to invest in mental health professionals, giving them the training and the tools they need to respond to emergencies,” Schultz said in the debate. “So please look at our voting record, not at what he said, because his voting record is different than what he is saying.”

It is true Stauber voted against the consideration of the bill package , and, once the bills were considered on the House floor individually, voted against the bill aimed at training mental health professionals to respond to some incidents instead of officers and voted against funding anti-violence programs in areas facing gun violence among youth.

As part of that same package, he did support more funding for small police departments and for funding to support departments solving homicides and non-fatal shootings.

But during the debate she also said Stauber “voted no against a $350 billion investment in law enforcement.”

This suggests the full figure would have gone straight to policing. In reality, the $350 billion figure cited by Schultz, and cited by Schultz’s campaign in the past, is the portion of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (which Stauber did vote against) that is meant “for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and bring back jobs,” as the U.S. Department of Treasury noted. That could include everything from broadband, to water and sewer infrastructure, to COVID-19 response and “replace public sector revenue loss,” the treasury said.

But billions are still going to law enforcement and public safety at the local level; it’s just not the full $350 billion.

Last month, The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system, reported that $52.6 billion in funding allocated from the American Rescue Plan has gone to “revenue replacement” of local governments. And “nearly half of this $52.6 billion went to projects that mentioned police, law enforcement, courts, jails and prisons,” The Marshall Project reported.

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The figure was found by searching “criminal justice-related terms in the project descriptions that local governments submitted to the Treasury,” The Marshall Project said.

But, it acknowledged: “It’s challenging to parse out exactly how much money was spent solely on criminal justice nationwide, especially because the project descriptions local governments submit to the Treasury can vary in length and detail.”

Upcoming debates

Stauber and Schultz will face off twice more before Election Day on Nov. 8.

The next is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday at Madden's On Gull Lake in Brainerd. It will be streamed on the Facebook pages of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce and KSTP-TV. Audio will then be rebroadcast on WCCO Radio later in the week, according to the chamber's website.

A final forum between the two is scheduled for 4 p.m. Oct. 28 on Hibbing Public Access Television. It will air live on Hibbing Mediacom channels 807 and 117-7 and stream live on HPAT.org, the Hibbing Public Access Television Facebook page, its YouTube channel, ROKU Channel and AppleTV app.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
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