Hennepin County District 2 Candidates Field Questions from the Business Community

At an early morning candidate forum hosted by the Northeast Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, Irene Fernando and Blong Yang fielded questions on matters of concern to the business community in Hennepin County’s District 2.

It was way too early to livetweet, so here are some things that stood out to me. Continue reading “Hennepin County District 2 Candidates Field Questions from the Business Community”

Rebecca Gagnon: Wrong for Minneapolis School Board

It has nothing to do with schools, but here’s an under the radar story from last year that explains what’s wrong with Rebecca Gagnon, who is running for re-election to the Minneapolis school board. It’s a story about billboard regulations. How does a school board member get mixed up with billboard regulations? Up until this year, Gagnon had been the school board’s representative on the City Planning Commission. Continue reading “Rebecca Gagnon: Wrong for Minneapolis School Board”

Irene Fernando for Hennepin County Board, District 2

It will be no surprise that I am endorsing Irene Fernando over Blong Yang for the open seat on the Hennepin County Board in District 2. There are many reasons you should vote for Irene Fernando, which you can read in the second half of this post. You’re fortunate if you have the chance to vote for her. But first, I have unpleasant memories of Blong Yang in his previous job that I must share with you. Continue reading “Irene Fernando for Hennepin County Board, District 2”

Dave Hutch for Hennepin County Sheriff

Dave Hutch is available on your ballot. “WEDGE” hat is available in the Wedge LIVE store.

Hennepin County Sheriff is a non-partisan office. But that only applies to what’s printed on the ballot; the candidates really do have political affiliations.

Rich Stanek is the Trump-supporting, ICE-cooperating, Republican incumbent, who once admitted to using racial slurs while on the job. The admission about racial slurs came in a deposition when he was sued for police brutality (the case ended in a settlement). In 2006, Stanek used $30,000 in sheriff’s office training funds to produce a “not-so-thinly-veiled campaign video,” depicting events in the aftermath of the I-35 bridge collapse. In 2016, Stanek sent officers to North Dakota to assist in putting down the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Continue reading “Dave Hutch for Hennepin County Sheriff”

Angela Conley for Hennepin County Board, District 4

There’s a lot of talk this year about Hennepin County never having had a person of color serve on the board. It’s a big deal, if not surprising. It needs to change. But if you haven’t entirely tuned into the campaign in District 4, you might have the false impression that the arguments here are entirely about identity. They’re not. Continue reading “Angela Conley for Hennepin County Board, District 4”

Local Elections are Happening in 2018

We’re less than two months from election day on November 6. As you’re likely aware, this is a pretty important national election. A great way to get involved during this critical time is with a local campaign. Turning out voters for local DFL candidates (as the Democratic Party is known in Minnesota) means you’ve likely turned out votes for Democratic candidates all the way up the ballot: for governor, the state legislature, and US House and Senate races.

If you live in Minneapolis, the most consequential 2018 races are for offices in Hennepin County. If you care about policing, there’s the sheriff’s race. If you care about criminal justice issues, there’s the county attorney. If you care about housing, transit, health care, and human services, there are two competitive races for the Hennepin County Board, which controls a massive budget of $2.4 billion (for context, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey recently proposed a 2019 budget of $1.6 billion). You should find a reason to feel strongly about one or more of the candidates below. They need your help over the next two months.

Please note: this list is for informational purposes only. These are not endorsements. Some of the candidates listed below are terrible. Wedge LIVE endorsements will be announced at a later time. For more information about these candidates, and those in next door Ramsey County, consult MSP Votes.

Hennepin County Board District 2

Irene Fernando (DFL endorsed) – VolunteerDonate
Blong Yang – VolunteerDonate

Hennepin County Board District 4

Angela Conley – VolunteerDonate
Peter McLaughlin (incumbent) – Donate

Hennepin County Attorney

Mike Freeman (incumbent) – Donate
Mark Haase (DFL endorsed) – VolunteerDonate

Hennepin County Sheriff

Dave Hutch (DFL endorsed) – VolunteerDonate
Rich Stanek (Republican, incumbent)

Minneapolis School Board At-Large

(You vote for two candidates)

Kimberly Caprini (DFL endorsed) – Donate
Rebecca Gagnon (incumbent) – Donate
Josh Pauly (DFL endorsed) – Volunteer – Donate
Sharon El-Amin VolunteerDonate

MN House 62A Endorsement: Jen Kader

My first impression of District 62A candidate Jen Kader has stuck with me since watching her at a candidate forum back in January. Jen is among a handful of first-time candidates competing in 62A, and she stood out as far and away the most prepared person on that stage. It’s the mark of someone who has been working on — and passionate about — the issues since long before she considered becoming a candidate.

Me discovering a great candidate.

Jen has a decade of community organizing and environmental advocacy experience that includes founding MN350, an organization devoted to fighting climate change. Through her job at the Freshwater Society, she works at the State Capitol finding ways to protect Minnesota’s freshwater resources. As a board member of her neighborhood organization, and as a founder of both the Whittier Project and the Give-a-Shit social club, she’s volunteered countless hours to breaking down barriers to political participation in Minneapolis. Jen is a frequent transit rider and bike commuter who knows firsthand why it’s essential to fund a transportation system — from sidewalks to buses — that works for everyone in our city.

Jen is endorsed by outgoing 62A Rep. Karen Clark (a dual-endorsement shared with fellow 62A candidate Margarita Ortega) and Minneapolis Park Board President Brad Bourn, among others.

Jen is steady, experienced, and always prepared. Observing her campaign over the last several months, I’ve found her to be wonderfully kind, earnest and unassuming. I’m proud to endorse Jen Kader; I know she’ll make the residents of District 62A proud if they elect her to the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Vote in the primary August 14! Visit Jen’s website to volunteer.

MN House District 62A extends roughly from Lyndale Avenue to Hiawatha (west to east), and from I-94 to Lake Street (north to south). Use your address to see which races and candidates are on your ballot.

District 62A


St. Paul City Council, Ward 4 Endorsement: Mitra Jalali Nelson

I got up early last Sunday and traveled from the Wedge to St. Paul’s Ward 4 to spend the morning with City Council candidate Mitra Jalali Nelson. The next day I watched her answer questions at a 90-minute forum. I worried this was too much time to spend, and in such a short period, with a stranger I met on the internet who only wears pink pants.

But I learned a few important things. Mitra is unreservedly pro-city, pro-housing and pro-transit. She’s a renter who chose her apartment because she wanted to live on the light rail in a vibrant neighborhood. She wants a city budget that invests in people — in things like rec centers — rather than hiring more cops. She’s called for funding the remainder of the St. Paul bike plan. She feels a sense of urgency about passing a minimum wage ordinance right away, without exceptions or carve-outs, because “it’s time to pour cement under our feet of sinking wages.” She’s thoughtful, she’s compelling, she’s experienced. I understand why such a broad and diverse coalition of people have been drawn to help get her elected.

I asked Mitra what she would tell a constituent with concerns about adding more housing to address an ongoing shortage of homes. What would she tell people when they say things like “there’s too many people here already”?

Our city is already growing. We’re falling behind. It’s hurting everyone that we haven’t created more places for people to live. Homeowners feel it because they’re pinched by property taxes. Renters feel it because the citywide vacancy rate is two percent. It’s creating a suffocating choke-hold on our city, a situation where people feel like they can’t stay here. In our ward there are tons of seniors who will be selling their homes and need to find a place to live. If they can’t find an apartment to live in nearby, they’re going to be pushed out of the community they spent their lives in.

At the next evening’s candidate forum, the very first question was about “neighborhood character” and “preservation.” These are buzzwords used frequently to signal opposition to change. Though some of the audience was less receptive to her position than I was, Mitra delivered the same answer she gave me: neighborhoods aren’t “livable” if you can’t afford to live there in the first place.

When I asked about policy ideas she’d like to borrow from other municipalities, Mitra cited the example of St. Louis Park requiring landlords to provide relocation assistance to tenants in cases where buildings are sold. As council member, she is committed to strong anti-displacement measures.

[More: Mitra Jalali Nelson talks about exclusionary zoning and police]

In a very St. Paul moment during the candidate forum, Mitra gave an unwavering defense of organized trash collection as a basic city service. Compared to some of her other answers, it seemed more common-sense than courageous… until the only other serious candidate equivocated and pandered.

I spend a lot of time listening to local elected officials talk about housing issues. And even among the best of them, there is usually hesitation and hedging about doing the right thing. Mitra is fearless. She wears her values on her sleeve. She says, “I’m running to be a leader on housing issues for our city.” And it’s so refreshingly clear that she means it.

There are a lot of great candidates up and down the ballot in 2018. But lately, when people ask me which candidate I’m most excited about, I say Mitra Jalali Nelson. St. Paul needs a leader like Mitra. At a time when so many of our local problems — from high rents to low wages to inadequate transportation — are begging for collective and regional solutions, we all need more leaders like Mitra.

The election is August 14th! Unlike other races on the ballot that day, this is a special election, which means the winner is the next council member for Ward 4 in St. Paul. Mitra’s the sort of candidate worth going all-out to support: