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The year 2020 has been difficult. COVID-19 has cost the lives of more than 219,000 Americans and 2,200 Minnesotans — so far. We have lost mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandpas, brothers and sisters several years before their time from this terrible virus. Family members have lost loved ones without being able to hold their hands, comfort them and say goodbye. Many have lost jobs or had to scale back their businesses, and fear what’s ahead financially.

The impending arrival of COVID-19 in the U.S. should have been a moment to set aside differences and come together to protect one another. The lives we are losing to COVID matter, and we must work together to reduce preventable death and suffering. We must be united in taking action to defeat this virus, and each of us plays a role. Through the struggles we currently face, Minnesotans want good lives and better futures, not just for our own families, but for our neighbors as well.

Unfortunately, our country has not yet seized the opportunity to unite and defeat the virus. President Donald Trump and many Republicans have downplayed COVID-19 — despite knowing how dangerous it was from the start — and continue to downplay the risk to our physical and economic health. Many Republican leaders refuse to listen to the science, facts and data, and they ignore public health strategies to keep people healthy and allow Minnesota’s businesses and schools to operate safely.

This campaign season, too many Republicans have fanned the flames of hate and division because they think that benefits them politically. Some Republicans spend time fostering division to distract voters from the president’s failure to ensure we have the health care and economic recovery plan we need to get through and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of offering plans to improve health care, education, or the other issues facing Minnesotans, too often Republican campaigns work to divide us against each other and falsely represent their political opponents’ records and stances.

Nothing is more important than the health and safety of Minnesotans. DFLers are working with Gov. Tim Walz to fight COVID-19: We’re expanding free testing, improving contact tracing, ensuring Minnesota schools and businesses can safely operate and preparing for eventual vaccine distribution.

Minnesota can emerge from these trying times better and stronger than before. The DFL majority in the Minnesota House has been working with Gov. Tim Walz and across party lines to achieve results that improve our state. The DFL House majority elected in 2018 got to work immediately — we completed important work left undone by the Republican House majority we defeated.

We tackled opiate abuse, distracted driving, protecting seniors and vulnerable adults in long-term care and took on Big Pharma to make emergency doses of insulin available. We enacted a balanced budget that prioritized affordable and accessible health care for all Minnesotans and world-class educational opportunities from preschool through job training. We worked to improve economic security for Minnesota families. Most recently, we led the efforts to enact the largest jobs and infrastructure package in state history.

COVID-19 and the killing of George Floyd have laid bare unacceptable racial inequities in Minnesota. Over the summer, the Minnesota House DFL brought together community members and law enforcement to pass bipartisan reforms to improve police accountability and start to restore public trust. We must keep working to ensure public safety for all Minnesotans. Our Select Committee on Racial Justice and our efforts to find solutions to bridge the opportunity gap in education are just the start — we need Minnesotans, the Senate and the governor to partner with us in this difficult but essential work.

The Minnesota House DFL is prioritizing what Minnesotans value — affordable and accessible health care, high quality education and job training, and economic security for our families. Our DFL House majority supports climate action and gun violence prevention measures. We know Minnesotans expect us to create safe and inclusive communities for all of us, no exceptions. Finding common ground and unifying our efforts will help us create a better future. That’s what House DFLers are focused on, and with your vote, we’ll continue our efforts to build a Minnesota that works better for everyone.

Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, is speaker of the Minnesota House.