Sonia Neculescu – MN House 60A

Tell us about a time — before you were a candidate for public office — where you felt strongly about a local/state political issue. Give an example of the action you took in response.

After we won $15/hr as the minimum wage in Minneapolis, I was appalled that the ordinance didn’t apply to University of Minnesota students. As a leader in the fight for $15 on campus, I worked to build solidarity between students and the frontline workers at the University of Minnesota. We haven’t won that fight yet. Our struggles are bound together, as is our liberation. When we join together across race, gender, religion, or geography—and see that our oppressors are the same, we are powerful and our movement is unstoppable. That’s the approach I take in my work.

If elected, what committee assignment would you like to receive and why?

The committees I would hope to join are:

Taxes. This is how we redistribute the wealth we need to achieve our priorities. I will champion adding a fifth tier to the income tax structure, which would tax the top 1% of income earned in Minnesota. I will also fight to close tax loopholes that allow corporations to operate in our state without paying their fair share. I also will fight hard to roll back the estate tax exclusion.

Housing Finance and Policy Division. In recent years, we have seen millions invested in new, private development while rents have continued to rise, pricing renters out and displacing the people who built this community. I will fight for rent control and a renter’s Bill of Rights, which includes just-cause eviction protection, a cap on security deposits, the right to organize, and an inclusive screening criteria mandate. We also need to implement a Green New Deal specific to public housing by making major investments in updating aging buildings to meet environmental and living standards.

Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division. We must undo centuries of oppressive policy aimed at harming BIPOC and low-wealth people. I will fight for a ban on private prisons in our state. I will champion ending the unjust practice of cash bail in Minnesota. I’ll also fight to legalize cannabis, decarcerate those imprisoned, and provide reparations to all that have been unfairly affected. We must also decriminalize sex work to remove stigma, increase work safety, and allow sex workers and their families to live with dignity. We must attain community oversight and control of police which is an essential step to demilitarizing and decolonizing community safety, and building toward a long-term vision of police abolition.

Transportation Finance and Policy Division. I will fight for free public transit in our state. Free fares are a way to offset the inequities in our transit system but also require long-term, dedicated funding towards transit. As a regular Metro Transit bus user, I know we must invest heavily in Bus Rapid Transit (BRT & aBRT) as well as Light Rail Transit (LRT). Cars should no longer be our long-term transportation plan.

Do you agree that we’re facing a climate emergency? If yes, what’s the appropriate emergency-level policy response?

Yes, absolutely. The climate crisis is the most important issue of our time. I will push us to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030. We must win a Green New Deal both nationally, and here in Minnesota to ensure we invest in clean energy and create jobs for workers in the dirty energy economy, and for workers currently out of the economy. I oppose all new pipelines and mines in this state and will work to hold industrial polluters, like Northern Metals accountable. We must recognize that we occupy stolen Dakota land and respect Indigenous sovereignty. This includes guaranteeing access to healthy food and fighting pipelines that threaten our lands and water.

Name some specific housing policies you would push as a legislator to make Minneapolis a more affordable place to find housing.

As a renter, I know the fear of being displaced by rising rents and corporate greed—I was priced out of the Como neighborhood. I will lead the fight at the Capitol to increase funding for public housing by taxing the rich. I will fight for rent control and a renter’s Bill of Rights, including just-cause eviction protection, a cap on security deposits, the right to organize, and an inclusive screening criteria mandate. We also need to implement a Green New Deal specific to public housing by making major investments in updating aging buildings to meet environmental and living standards.

Can you identify anything the legislature currently gets wrong on transportation — and how you’d fix this?

Our long-term transportation plan shouldn’t be centered around personal vehicles. As a state, we have failed to adequately fund public transportation. It’s critical we provide free public transit for all Minnesotans, which would directly fight racial and economic inequity. This starts with massive investments to increase route options so transit is fully accessible—especially to those who need it most. A part of funding such an ambitious goal includes indexing the gas tax to inflation to ensure dedicated funding towards fixing our roads and bridges, as well as growing rapid bus transit. As a regular Metro Transit bus user, I know we must invest heavily in Bus Rapid Transit (BRT & aBRT) as well as Light Rail Transit (LRT).

Identify the top challenges facing schools in your area and how you’d address them.

Our public schools are direly underfunded. I support Education Minnesota’s call for a $4.3 billion investment in K-12 education to give educators the resources and support they need to teach our students. This includes investing in full-service community schools with wrap-around services. I’ll be a champion for transitioning School Resource Officers (SROs) to mental health professionals and counselors. I also support a Universal School Lunch Program to end lunch shaming and eliminate school lunch debt. I support a moratorium on charter schools, along with a comprehensive study to look at the impact charters have on our communities. We need an Education Support Professionals (ESP) Bill of Rights that includes providing pipeline programs for ESP and support staff to help them attain their teaching licenses and debt forgiveness, especially for BIPOC educators. Our students need culturally competent and trauma informed education. This should include comprehensive sex education for K-12 that is gender- and queer-inclusive, and includes consent. Our higher education system is broken. I graduated with $40,000 in student loan debt. I will be a champion for four years of free public college for all Minnesotans, including undocumented and formerly incarcerated students, and the full cancellation of all student loan debt.

Name an issue area about which your own knowledge and experience are lacking. How are you learning more? Who do you turn to for advice?

My knowledge and experience are lacking in agriculture policy. I know Minnesotans’ needs are diverse, and as a legislator, I want to make sure I’m informed on all issues, since all our problems, and solutions, are intersectional. The work Land Stewardship Project does organizing in farming communities to fight for stewardship of our farmland and sustainable agriculture through an intersectional, non-corporate lens is powerful. I want to work with them to build stronger relationships in farming communities to strengthen my knowledge and analysis, and be a partner in achieving their priorities.

Do you see specific opportunities for the state legislature to support the work of — or remove obstacles for — the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor?

We need to build and strengthen relationships with local governments. Currently, counties and cities operate from revenue created by property taxes. Property taxes are a form of regressive taxation, which disproportionately impacts working class and working poor families. In order to ensure stable funding and predictable revenue sharing for local governments, we need to add a fifth tier to the income tax, roll back the estate tax exclusion, and end corporate tax welfare. I’m also dedicated to defeating any preemption bill that ever makes its way into the legislature. This will allow counties and cities to be on the frontline of progressive change, especially when it comes to revenue generation and progressive policy. Minneapolis has led some of the biggest wins for working class people, like Earned Sick and Safe Time, a $15 minimum wage, prevailing wage, and Paid Family Medical Leave.

Lightning Round – Short answers if possible.

What neighborhood do you live in?

I’m a renter living in the Sheridan neighborhood in Northeast Minneapolis. I moved here from the Como neighborhood when my landlord raised the rent and priced me out of my home.

Do you have a favorite Metro Transit bus route? Where does it take you?

I take the 11 from 2nd St/13th St, then I transfer to the Green Line at the Warehouse District stop which I take to the Raymond Ave stop. That’s my commute!

What leadership experience do you have?

As a student at the UofM, I co-founded Women for Political Change (WFPC) as a student group in the fall of 2015. I work as the Political Action Director of WFPC, a multiracial, youth-led organization that holistically invests in the leadership and political power of young women and trans & non-binary folks in Minnesota. I’ve served as the District Director and later Campaign Manager for Rep. Ilhan Omar’s campaign for MN House. In 2018, I led the youth program for the Minnesota DFL Coordinated Campaign, running a statewide youth field program across 16 campuses. Overall, we increased youth voter turnout by 29% between 2014 and 2018, bringing youth voter participation to 58.7%.

Have you run for elected office before? Which one/s?


Do you support the Minneapolis 2040 plan?

Yes, I support the Minneapolis 2040 plan—it’s a strong start, but it’s not perfect, and I’d like for it to go further. In my role as a legislator, I will partner with the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor to help move legislation that strengthens sustainable, permanently affordable housing.

[Click here to read answers from all district 60A candidates. The special primary election is on January 21st, 2020.]