by Anne Holzman
A Como Park neighborhood woman is challenging longtime incumbent Alice Hausman for the DFL endorsement to state House District 66A, which includes parts of St. Anthony Park and Como Park neighborhoods in St. Paul and also Falcon Heights, Lauderdale and part of Roseville.
Hausman was first elected in 1989 and is now serving her 16th term. If ultimately re-elected, her term would begin before any legislative redistricting occurs after the 2020 U.S. Census.
Challenger Cari Ness decided to run for office after her experience as a Humphrey Fellow at the University of Minnesota. She ran for District 10 council and served one term in 2017-2018.
She continues to serve on the council’s Environment Committee as a community member. Ness got involved in the Senate District 66 DFL party and was interim vice chair leading up to the 2018 convention.
Last year, on a road trip to Yellowstone Park, she decided to run for the House. “I had a heavy realization about how things are changing,” she said, citing climate change as a prime motivator for her effort. “I knew, I needed to run, and do it now. There’s so much urgency around this and criminal justice and health care.”
Ness explained that while knocking on doors for other candidates, she has met experts on climate change whose voices she believes should be heard at the Capitol.
“The demographics of this district have changed significantly,” said Ness, who is married with two children. “I’m running to flip the model of representation to be more inclusive.”
Ness, who worked at Minnesota Public Radio as a fundraiser and now works for an offshoot of the radio network that processes donations and funds rides for seniors, cites fundraising as a strength of her campaign.
Meanwhile, Hausman said before every election, she meets with other seasoned lawmakers, asking, “Do I want to do this again?”
This time she met with Sen. John Marty and former Rep. Mindy Greiling and discussed the impact redistricting might have on subsequent elections. Hausman lives in St. Anthony Park and saw her district substantially redrawn in 2011.
Hausman also thought about the special election to replace Minneapolis Rep. Diane Loeffler, who died Nov. 16, while in office. When there’s no incumbent, she said, more candidates try for the seat. In this case, “there were lots of candidates,” Hausman said. “They have a good debate. And then they redraw the lines and they’re not in the district.”
Hausman said she expects another round of changes after the 2020 Census, in part because so many apartment buildings are going up.
“It’s a practical reason to do this one more time.”
Of her long service in the House, Hausman said, “I think in most professions, experience helps. When you know what you’re doing, you can do an amazing amount of work even if you’re in the minority.”
She said she consults with people from across the state, “Everybody knows what I’m able to help them with.”
Hausman, who currently chairs the Housing Committee, added, “That is where I’ll continue to redouble my efforts.”
She also serves on the Transportation Committee and would like to get another daily Amtrak train to Chicago. She seeks continued investment in Metro Transit, especially buses, she said, “and we have to make it clean and safe.”
As of press time, the DFL endorsing convention for Senate District 66 has been postponed until at least some time in May, a delayed cause by the current coronavirus crisis. Ness and Hausman both said they would abide by the endorsement.
Sidebar: Brett Rose is running for House 66A as a Republican. He lives in Roseville with his spouse and one child. His website cites “dealing with the economy” as a key issue.