Five vie for 59B House seat in North Minneapolis


It’s a part-time job paying $31,140 per year, involves relating to 300 law-making peers and thousands of constituents, and has potential to change everyday life. Three DFLers and two Republicans are running for Minnesota State Representative, District 59B as incumbent Bobby Joe Champion runs for the State Senate.

The district includes North Minneapolis south of West Broadway (and a small area north of of the Broadway curve), the northern part of Bryn Mawr, North Loop, and reaches into more of downtown than it did before redistricting, including Elliot Park. See online

NorthNews asked why each candidate is running for this office and not some other, their credentials, and two other question areas: 1.) What does state government do that affects your district directly, and what is the one piece of legislation that you’re most eager to sponsor, which will have a positive effect on your district? 2.) Legislators have been criticized for spending too much time on distractions and political game-playing. What is the key to getting important legislation done, and what impact do you think you can have on the overall picture? In alphabetical order, here are their responses.

Ian Alexander, DFL Party

Credentials: “One of few family law attorneys still in North Minneapolis.” Alexander also works for the City of Minneapolis on contract as a complaint investigator in the civil rights department. He’s been a North Minneapolis resident since 2007, where he located after graduation. He got his master’s degree from the U of M Humphrey Institute and JD from the U of M Law School.

“I’m running because the whole district needs an advocate who can deliver. I will take positions on economic development, “ to get West Broadway and Glenwood Avenue more businesses and activity, “to take part in the 2025 Plan downtown,” Alexander said.

“My other issue is education, particularly in the early years. It’s return on investment. The achievement gap is just crazy. Both my parents were teachers, and you can see the investment they made, in reading to me, for example.”

Education is one state function that affects us all, Alexander said. One piece of legislation he would like to sponsor, “particularly if we win back the majority, is early childhood education funding. In the formative years, when kids’ minds are like sponges, that’s when we really need to invest. People are our best asset.”

Alexander said the key to having impact is “learning about and being expert in a few issues, to be able to advocate without being personal. Look at the bigger picture.” He said he can skillfully and diplomatically present facts, and will listen to city and county concerns (who often don’t work well together, he said) and address their concerns through the state House.

He said he also brings a small business owner’s perspective and will work to attract companies that bring jobs. “But businesses aren’t going to locate here if the environment is toxic. It’s so much more expensive to locate here, but [Minnesota’s] very educated people are the asset. Public transportation needs a lot of work.”

Alexander added that North Minneapolis is an underutilized asset, “I want to see Surly on Glenwood, and development by the impound lot.” He said he knows how to advocate for business development and looks forward to working with Bobby Champion, a good advocate whose committees have been Ways and Means and Judiciary.

Terra Cole, DFL Party

A professional who wants to “give back to the community who raised me, show return on their investment,” Terra Cole said her one-time dream was to be County Commissioner. But last August she decided on this race after hearing from Representatives Jeff Hayden and Bobby Champion that changes were afoot. Even though the County Commissioner seat opened up after she announced in December, she stuck with this contest because her goal was regional change, and “this has the most impact possible. The State influences what the county does.”

She’s worked as an outreach liaison and curriculum developer for the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, as an evaluator and project manager for Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation, and most recently as co-leader of Hennepin County’s 2010 Census promotional campaign. Cole is a Technology of Participation-certified facilitator and strategic planner. She’s served on numerous boards and task forces including currently the City of Minneapolis Redistricting Committee, and in 2006-2008 the Hawthorne Area Community Council as board chair.

Cole has a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the U of M Humphrey Institute (2010), and graduated from North High, a North Minneapolis resident for 24 years. At age 34, she said she encourages people under 40 to bring their ideas to the table while learning from mentors.

While her key issues include, in this order, education, crime and safety, economic development , and housing, Cole said one piece of legislation that she would be most eager to sponsor has to do with harassment and bullying, “strengthening those laws so kids feel safe at home, work, and wherever they spend significant time. Kids are taking what they see, to extremes.” To be productive, everyone has to feel emotionally safe, she said, asking “how much genius have we allowed to suffer? The human capital lost” to the effects of harassing behaviors – depression, suicide.

Cole said at first she wouldn’t be cranking out bills but “building longevity, finding out who’s working on what.” On the question of getting things done, she said she sees herself as the most qualified, invested and experienced candidate whose role is to find and catalog resources, make sure people are getting and leveraging those resources” before looking for more. As a researcher she lamented the tendency for good programs to be discontinued before adequate data can be collected (five years) or for useful data to not be collected at all.

Cole speaks enthusiastically and in detail about Hennepin County’s Census 2010 promotional campaign which resulted in the county being ranked Number One for Census participation, and “saving the state of Minnesota the last allocated Congressional seat (and millions of associated dollars). “The city had the money, we put in the staff time” including working personally with each commissioner to sponsor events tailored to their districts and to specific traditionally under-counted populations. They encouraged all county employees to understand and communicate to all of their clients the importance of being counted.

She said it’s this level of outreach that is her style, “be in the room to see who else is there, have solution-based discussions, know what’s being discussed and why they (community members) should be there. Community empowerment and authentic engagement. I know the good old boys, the good old girls, and there are best practices to be shared. But I won’t do it by myself.”

Raymond Dehn, DFL Party

“People have said ‘you’d be a great city council member,’” Raymond Dehn said. “I didn’t just wake up one day [and decide to run for State Representative]. “I talked to 20-30 people. Being a white male would be an issue. I’ve been told by people of color that it is,” or isn’t. “There are white people who say ‘I know you’re the most qualified’ but have the philosophy that the seat should be held by a person of color.”

Dehn said he is best-suited for working in a field of 134 house members and 67 senators, compared to the 13 on the City Council. “I understand about moving things from committee to the floor. As an architect I have to sometimes get seven people with entirely different interests together” to result in a building.

Dehn ran for State Senate two years ago and helped Keith Ellison, who has now endorsed Dehn, get elected as State Representative before Ellison ran for Congress. Dehn has served on the Minneapolis Capital Long Range Improvements Committee, 2020 Partners, the Bottineau LRT Policy Advisory Committee and chaired the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council Phase 2 Action Plan process.

“I’m the fourth generation in my family to live on the Northside,” Dehn said, growing up on Humboldt Avenue before the Greenway, living in Crystal and graduating from Cooper High School but coming to live at 12th and Upton 12 years ago. “My mother had a seventh grade education, my father graduated high school. There was not a silver spoon.”

Dehn said he’s not likely to author any bills in his first year, but looks forward to voting on education allocations, job creation, health care and the criminal justice system. He said he eventually would author a bill requiring the State to keep criminal records and make background checks go through only the state and not third parties, where it can take years for a record to get expunged. “For those who have turned their lives around there need to be real opportunities.”

Along similar lines, and if the political climate were right, he would push for “the right to vote should be restored the day after a person gets out of lockup.” He said some people under court supervision and not eligible to vote try to vote by mistake, and some who could vote think their right to vote is gone forever. “We expect fully participating citizens” once they have done their time. Such a bill “will need to build public and inside support.”

Seven and a half years ago, Dehn, working as an architect, joined Architects, Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility. “I’m fortunate that after ‘82 I didn’t have to check a box.” He was convicted of felony burglary at 18 in 1976, got sober at 19, received a full pardon extraordinary in 1982 (record wiped out). “I decided I needed to use my experiences” to make change. I’ll never know what it is like to be African American. But I grew up in poverty. Adolescents make stupid choices that they pay for all of their life. If you can’t get a job you can’t do much.”

On getting things done: “I operate from collaboration, what we have in common, shared interests. Will I stand on principle? Absolutely. “ He said the caustic nature of the last 10 years in a “polarizing” legislature “has to be disgusting” to the participants, but they are “resigned to” it being necessary; Dehn said he doesn’t think so.

“We have to understand that the stadium and other high profile decisions aren’t the only decisions being made. I would love it if people painted their faces and got dressed up for education” like they did for the stadium.

Gary Mazzotta, Republican

Gary Mazzotta describes himself as having the “standard background: college educated, family, business person (employed now at Best Buy, and in the past, with other large companies as a process improvement expert, project manager, facilitator and trainer). He said he’s not the type to run for offices to work his way up, “I love where I am, but haven’t done much so I saw this as an opportunity to get off the sidelines. I have a business background, so I understand how things work. And I see the impact of government on me and my neighbors. “

The one area where he would want to have the biggest impact is jobs and employment. He would like to see businesses locate and expand in the city, filling empty storefronts. “I know how government massages the community’s growth and progress, Mazzotta said.

He said there’s not enough incentive for small and minority businesses to increase their head counts. Mazzotta’s three-part jobs reform bill would encourage businesses to hire and retain more employees, train and retrain people, and “free up more research and development money so companies can invest and grow.” This might take the form of changes to tax structure, grants, and employee incentives.

“Fill the job fronts, it improves the community. You get better schools because people are paying into the tax system, and it drives down crime.”

“This is where I say I’m a people person, right?” Mazzotta said to the question of how to actually get things done. “I have experience working where there are two or more sides. As a trainer, I have to influence individuals that I don’t work with regularly, to work side by side with me.” He discussed the difference in needs between Minneapolis and the more rural parts of Minnesota. “I’ve learned that you can influence with data and facts, but you must deal with emotion as well, and land on compromise ultimately. It’s been done.”

Born in Pittsburgh, Mazzotta went to the University of Pittsburgh. He lives in downtown Minneapolis in the North Loop, and his website describes him as a longtime resident of Minneapolis. “We are active in our community through United Way and our church.We enjoy the parks and recreation systems of our great state as a members of the Minneapolis Rowing Club and the Minnesota Distance Running Association, and I have been curling for the past five years.”

William McGaughey, Republican

Credentials: I’m a graduate of an Ivy League college, a former accountant with Metro Transit, and a 20-year resident of North Minneapolis. I have been co-chair of Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee, a landlord group which has played a role in city politics. Occupationally, I provide housing for low-income city residents. I’m also a fighter for causes I believe in.

What does the State do, and one piece of legislation: “In my view, state government has limited power to create jobs – such policies are set mostly at the federal level. I have chosen to concentrate on domestic-abuse reform. From personal experience, I know that political games are being played in this area. It is important for the public to have confidence in the police. (There was a murder on my block recently.)

We cannot have people being arbitrarily arrested, the police including false information in reports, innocent persons being excluded from their homes for long periods of time, etc. etc. I would take on the Domestic Abuse establishment and insist on fair play for everyone. When constitutional protections are observed by government authorities, people feel better about the community and businesses thrive.”

“Matters of police and safety are the direct responsibility of the legislature, at least to get it discussed. These are fairly common problems and the public is ready to talk about things like this.

He said he is also interested in light rail coming through North Minneapolis, giving access to jobs. “It will be more economical if there’s more ridership, and you get more ridership on a bigger system. He lives in Harrison where both the Bottineau and Southwest lines will be within walking distance for many.

How to get things done: “I guess the key to getting things done in the legislature is building relationships with the other legislators and with constituents. Last time, the DFL candidate beat my primary opponent by a 4-to-1 margin. This is not a healthy situation. If a Republican should happen to win this seat, it would be one of the best things to happen for Northside residents because this person could work both with Republicans in the legislature and with DFLers representing Minneapolis interests. I have an open mind but also a nose for organized nonsense.”

McGaughey also spoke of having run for president as a Democrat in 2004, and advocating shorter work times “which is anathema to economists. “I have Democratic tendencies but believe businesses should be left alone. I argue with Right-Wing Republicans. I agree with Photo ID, I think they should have it, and if it’s too expensive, give it to them.”