Lauderdale City Council
Lauderdale’s long-serving mayor is running for re-election unopposed on Nov. 4, while two incumbents and a political newcomer are vying for two city council seats. All residents vote at Lauderdale City Hall, 1891 Walnut St., where polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.—Roger Bergerson
Jeff Dains has been Lauderdale’s mayor since 1992 and before that served on the council for one term. He has been a field representative for the Association for State, County and Municipal Employees in Ramsey and Hennepin counties for nearly 20 years.
Roxanne Grove was first elected to the Lauderdale City Council in 2009 and says helping to pass the Larpenteur Avenue Pedestrian Improvement Project was one of her most important contributions. Since 1993, she has been a depression care manager for HealthPartners, a health-maintenance organization.
Mary Gaasch is seeking a second term on the city council and is proud to have supported development of Skyview Park, new bonding sources of revenue for the city and improved pedestrian safety in the form of new sidewalks. She is active in the community, including volunteer service at her church.
Jeremy Carr is a first-time office seeker who works in business and product development at a start-up technology company. If elected, his priorities would include business development in the Larpenteur corridor and support for maintaining the quality of the city’s housing stock.
Incumbent: Janice Rettman
Challenger: Girard Goder
Girard Goder is challenging incumbent Janice Rettman for the District 3 seat on the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners. The district includes Falcon Heights and the Como Park and Hamline Midway neighborhoods.
Goder, an environmental program supervisor for Washington County, said he chose to run for the office because he has observed firsthand the influence the board has on the lives of citizens.
“I was inspired to run for county commissioner because I really feel that if I was elected, it would allow me the opportunity to give back to my community and create positive change for the county as a whole,” Goder said.
His priorities are “to end chronic homelessness in Ramsey County, in step with many other major metropolitan areas,” he said. “I will support policies and programs that encourage small-business development and attract socially responsible businesses to Ramsey County. I will work to bring new and diverse jobs to the county, from entry-level blue collar to senior-level professional opportunities.”
He continued, “I will ensure the safety of our communities by supporting programs reducing crime and pollution. Lastly, I will hold county departments accountable and insist upon annual improvements in efficiency and service.”
Rettman has served on the county board since 1997. “We have championed living-wage jobs, the restoration of the tax base and environmental justice, which provides economic prosperity and combats concentrated areas of poverty,” she said.
Rettman said that if re-elected, she would advocate working with Washington and Dakota counties to address the future of the Totem Town youth facility, instead of with Hennepin County as recently proposed.
She would continue to improve veterans’ services, she said, especially “to better address the needs of women returning home from their service in the military.”
The development of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills requires “vigilance and insistence” that commitments to repay taxpayers are upheld and that living-wage jobs result from improvements to the property, she said.
Finally, the county is still recovering from property tax fluctuations of the past decade, Rettman said. “We continue to work on returning property to the tax rolls.” She described the Ramsey County Reuse, Recycle and Renovate for Reinvestment policy (4R) as “enormously successful” and expressed concern that critics might want to stop the program “without understanding the impact it is having.”
“These houses are not only improving the neighborhood and spurring other housing fix-ups, the properties are returned to tax rolls,” she said.—Anne Holzman
Incumbents Carter, Choi and Bostrom running unopposed
Ramsey District 4: Toni Carter, unopposed
Ramsey County attorney: John Choi, unopposed
Ramsey County sheriff: Matt Bostrom, unopposed
Three Ramsey County officials—two countywide and one in District 4 on the western edge of the county—are running unopposed for re-election to their offices.
Toni Carter has served as District 4’s Ramsey County commissioner since April 2005. Her district takes in Lauderdale, St. Anthony Park and neighborhoods south of I-94.
Carter was recently named co-chair of Gov. Mark Dayton’s statewide Task Force on Child Protection. Carter said recent achievements of the county board include detention alternatives for youth, expansion of transit and transportation options and a new mental health center on University Avenue. She said she is pleased that the county has maintained a triple-A credit rating and kept property taxes stable while maintaining services.
In the area of transportation, Carter noted “the growth of affordable housing and jobs along the Green Line, especially during such a tough economic period,” and the renovation of Union Depot as a multimodal transportation hub.
Assuming she is re-elected, Carter said she intends to work on securing further funding for transportation, improve accountability for child welfare, continue to work on solving homelessness and “reduce the disproportionate present of people with mental health issues in our jails by finding or creating alternative resources or solutions.”
She also sees needs to “create a clear connection” between economic development and workforce development; improve support for children, “cradle to careers”; and update services for juvenile offenders and their families.
John Choi is running for re-election as Ramsey County attorney. He was first elected to the office in 2010. Choi’s efforts to stop sex trafficking received national attention after he obtained a 40-year prison sentence for trafficking ringleader Otis D. Washington.
His campaign also notes progress in breaking up auto theft-and-scrap operations, reuniting kids in foster care with their families, assisting veterans, and using GPS technology to serve victims of domestic abuse.
Matt Bostrom is running for re-election as Ramsey County sheriff. He defeated longtime sheriff Bob Fletcher in 2010. In his first term, Bostrom has emphasized management techniques that include collaboration with other law enforcement officials and introduction of technology.
If re-elected, Bostrom projects further work on a “criminal justice dashboard” to enhance communications, as well as continued emphasis on “community policing” approaches including outreach to youth, veterans, and other constituents. —Anne Holzman
Minnesota House of Representatives
House District 64A
Incumbent: Erin Murphy
Challenger: Andrew Brown
University of St. Thomas student Andrew Brown (R) is challenging incumbent Erin Murphy (DFL) to represent House District 64A.
Brown, who served as vice-chair of the College Republicans at the University of St. Thomas during the 2013-14 academic year, said his job at a funeral product manufacturing company has taught him “what hard work is like, and having to assume different roles.” He works “in both sales and as a welder” for that company, he said.
“As someone from outside of politics,” Brown said, “I bring private-sector efficiency.”
Brown chose to run for the House seat “to give the residents of St. Paul a new choice rather than the status quo.” He noted that 64A takes in both St. Thomas and Macalester College campuses and added, “Who better to run than a college student?”
If elected, Brown said he will “introduce legislation to reduce the tax burden on all Minnesotans.”
“Lowering tax rates across the board, including the corporate tax, would allow Minnesotans the freedom to spend their money as they see fit,” he said.
Murphy is running for her fifth term in the House, having served as majority leader in the most recent session. As majority leader, she was responsible for guiding the House budget through the drafts, hearings and negotiations necessary to finalize the document.
Under DFL leadership this past term, “we balanced the budget, and a balanced budget and a growing economy has yielded a surplus,” she said, adding that repaying school districts for previous accounting shifts, funding all-day kindergarten and early childhood education, and freezing tuition for higher education were also important achievements.
If re-elected, Murphy said she will propose extending Minnesota public universities’ tuition freeze to 2017 as part of the next budget.
She also expects to work on funding transportation. “Minnesotans are talking about transportation all the time,” Murphy said. “Businesses can’t get goods and services from point A to point B.”
Murphy said she hopes for a good voter turnout in this non-presidential election year.
“Every election is about our future,” Murphy said. “It’s our responsibility to shape the future. I hope that everybody votes, because we have a future that is worth fighting for.”—Anne Holzman
House District 66B
Incumbent: John Lesch
Challenger: Elizabeth (Lizz) Paulson
Lizz Paulson (R), a teacher who lives on Edgerton Street in St. Paul, chose to run for House District 66B as “a logical outcome of being a teacher,” she said. “We have so many educational challenges in our state.”
She also said that in contrast to her opponent, “I represent our whole House district, not just Como.” One of her goals is “to empower people who are disengaged.”
Paulson’s teaching experience includes Anderson Open School, home day care, an extended-day program at Maxfield Elementary in St. Paul and her current position as a reading tutor at East Side Learning Center.
Paulson ran unsuccessfully for the St. Paul School Board in 2011.
As a legislator Paulson said she would seek to “re-examine” state standards for learning. Language arts standards should focus more on phonics and grammar, and that the state should “think about the math standards,” she said.
She believes the federal government is out of line in some of its requirements for funding, she said. “I would vote to refuse federal funding if it has strings attached.”
Incumbent John Lesch (D) is running for his seventh term in the district.
Lesch said an important personal accomplishment last term was passing a bill to regulate breeding of dogs and cats. He said he hopes the law, which requires licensing and inspection, “will reduce some of the animal cruelty.”
His party is proud of “taking a huge deficit and turning it into a surplus, and paying back schools,” he said, and “we implemented a tax law change to make sure the richest Minnesotans pay their fair share.”
Another personal achievement came in overturning the “Timberjay” court ruling, with a bill that extends Minnesota’s Data Practices law to government contracts, Lesch said. The Timberjay newspapers in northern Minnesota had lost a court battle to obtain information concerning a school district matter; Lesch’s bill overturned that ruling.
If re-elected, Lesch said he will focus on helping crime victims. “I want to take another look at how we are allocating dollars” in the criminal justice system, he said.
And while he is pleased with gains in education funding last session, he would like to do more.
“Minnesota was on a great track for most of my youth,” Lesch said. “I want us to go to the next level: higher education as well as K-12.”
“The Minnesota Miracle stated that all kids should have equal access,” he said. Because of cost increases in extracurricular activities and college tuition, Lesch said, “that is happening less and less.”—Anne Holzman
House District 66A
Incumbent: Alice Hausman
Challenger: Jon Heyer
After a decade of recruiting others to run for office, Jon Heyer (R) is challenging incumbent Alice Hausman (DFL) to represent Minnesota House District 66A.
Heyer has served as chair and in other leadership roles of his party’s House district, roles that he said required him to raise money, organize meetings and knock on doors. “I’ve been out working amongst the people,” he said. He also recruited others to run for office, and eventually he decided to try it himself.
Heyer chose to run for the House because of his concern about how the state spends money, he said.
“The state House of Representatives is in large part responsible for a lot of the spending bills,” Heyer said. “Being that Alice Hausman is chair of the bonding bill, she has maybe even more responsibility for spending.”
Hausman expressed satisfaction with a “remarkably successful year in 2014.” One important accomplishment came in the area of housing, for which the legislature approved $100 million in bonding funds, she said.
She listed her work on the Bell Museum’s new home to be built off Larpenteur Avenue in Falcon Heights, state trails, higher education facilities, the Minnesota Historical Society’s Oliver H. Kelley Farm in Elk River and “a number of arts and cultural projects [that] were finally delivered” as achievements of the past session, during which she chaired the House Capital Investment Committee.
Hausman, who has served the district since 1990, said there is still a ways to go in serving Minnesota’s homeless population. Citing a University of Minnesota study that found children who lack stable housing in the early grades lose several years’ worth of school achievement, Hausman said, “That is one of many reasons to redouble our efforts to do more.”
If re-elected, she would also expect to continue working on funding for higher education, particularly “asset preservation,” the maintenance and updating of campuses around the state.
Heyer said he’d aim to put the brakes on spending. “I believe that we’ve been a little irresponsible with the things that we’ve spent money on,” he said. “Now our top tax bracket is the fourth highest in the country. That causes people to rethink ways to avoid paying taxes—retiring early, moving out of state. That income stream goes away.”
He would also like to introduce term limits. “Legislators attempt to leave themselves a legacy,” Heyer said. “I have no desire to do that.”
And he wants to define terms for the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council “to prevent the political parties from coming up with creative definitions to reappropriate the money.”
Hausman said she hopes voters will hand the DFL another session in the majority. If that happens, Hausman said, Minnesotans can expect movement in an area that many felt was neglected last session: “a transportation funding bill to deal with the vast backlog of needs.” —Anne Holzman