Debra has been married to Joel, a union carpenter, for over 29 years. They are proud parents of two children-Stephanie and Jeremy. Their daughter Stephanie works as an attorney and their son Jeremy is in college.
Debra is currently an assistant county attorney for Anoka County, a job in which she protects the elderly, battered women, and other crime victims from abuse, fraud and other wrongdoing.
Debra was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2000, and has been re-elected every two years since then. She is currently the DFL-Lead for the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee for the 2015-16 legislative sessions and also serves on the Civil Law and Data Practices and Ways and Means committees. During her time at the legislature, Debra has also served on various committees including K-12 Finance, Taxes, Commerce, and Rules.
In 2001, Debra received the "Champion for Racial Justice" award for her leadership toward racial equity.
In 2006, Debra received the "Children's Champion Award" from the Children's Defense Fund for promoting the health and well being of Minnesota's children.
In 2007, the Police and Peace Officers Association named Debra as "Legislator of the Year."
In 2008, Debra received a "Perfect Score" by Conservation Minnesota.
In 2009, the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees named Debra "Legislator of the Year".
In 2009, Debra was recognized by the Minnesota Courts for her leadership on improving the administration of justice and untiring efforts to ensure meaningful access to the judicial system for the citizens of Minnesota. Debra also received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Center for Elder Justice and Policy for a law she passed that will protect vulnerable adults from financial exploitation.
In 2015, Debra received the public service award from MCAA, which recognized her efforts to enhance the quality of justice in Minnesota.