The entire Minnesota State House of Representatives is up for election. North Minneapolis residents in 59B will choose between one-term incumbent Raymond Dehn, a Democrat, and Margaret Martin, a Republican. The district is approximately divided from 59A by West Broadway, with the Tangletown area in 59B and a triangle below Broadway near the western city border in 59A.
Raymond Dehn, an architect by trade, Dehn has resided in North for 15 years. In his first term in office, he said he has been making good use of his time. He has worked in criminal justice, transportation, and mortgage foreclosures, as well as advocating for funding for Minneapolis Public Schools.
“There’s really no one most important issue,” Dehn said about his divided efforts.
According to Dehn, he has advocated for and provided financial relief to lower middle class families, and had a hand in drafting the original version of the bill recently passed to raise the minimum wage. An issue of note he championed, “Ban the Box,” prohibits private employers asking for an applicant’s criminal history on job applications.
“I believe applications should be judged on their merits, and not immediately on the applicant’s past actions,” said Dehn. The bill did end up passing, though employers can still ask for an applicant’s criminal history later during the interview process.
In his term however, Dehn said he has not been able to do as much work as he would have liked. A mortgage bill he attempted to pass was shot down last year that would have helped to allow financial mediation for low-income families, allowing them to possibly avoid foreclosure. Disappointed, he hopes to pursue the matter further if the DFL remains in control in 2015.
Opposing Representative Dehn is Margaret Martin, wanting to bring what she sees as a much needed change of pace to North Minneapolis’s political theater. Though she admits that running for office flying Republican colors in such a blatantly Democratic city will be a challenge, she is still optimistic that she will present a good alternative to voters wary of having a single party representing them for so long.
“People’s votes should be sought after, not assumed,” said Martin. “When there’s no competition of ideology, you get this sort of echo chamber.”
Martin began her career as a teacher, graduating with a PhD in foreign studies from the University of Michigan. She came to Minnesota in 1994 to teach at Carleton College. She began to get into the world of politics when her husband became the president of the Taxpayers’ League of Minnesota. From there on, she began volunteering during elections and becoming more passionately immersed in Minnesota politics. She noticed a lot of the same issues in Minneapolis as she’d seen in Third World countries during her studies and resolved to use her experience in politics and education to help.
After buying land and settling in North Minneapolis, Martin and her husband built their own house by hand. Martin recalls building her home as one of the greatest struggles and achievements of her career. She saw it as an opportunity to blaze her own way at home as she does in her career.
Martin sees her lack of connection to the current administration as an advantage, bringing a blank slate to the community and a new voice to people not connected. According to her, the experiences of her life qualify her; “Everything I’ve done has led me here,” she said.
Having grown up in a suburb of Detroit after her family moved away from a more central area of the city, Martin has lived in an urban environment her whole life. She has experienced many of the challenges many families in Minneapolis face. As a child, she saw so many people leaving from Detroit as neighborhoods struggled. Yet she said she knows Minneapolis is a very different climate.
“There’s so much positive going on, even in the worst neighborhoods,” Martin said, explaining that wasn’t something often seen in her childhood. “There’s a lot of hope. Even if we are divided in our politics, that’s a really great quality.”