The Minnesota Senate has lost the presence of two longstanding female DFLers, both of whom happen to be named Linda, and the race is on to find their replacement in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park, with the primary election set for September 13 and the general election on October 18.
Sen. Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park, died this summer from ovarian cancer after serving 15 years in the Senate and 14 more in the House of Representatives. A primary will be needed for her Senate District 46 seat, which includes Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center, because two DFLers and two Republicans are seeking the nomination.
Sen Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, is retiring from the Legislature after 38 years to take a health care reform policy manager job with Hennepin County. Six DFLers have lined up to succeed her in the left-leaning Senate District 61 district, which includes parts of the Kingfield, Lyndale, Whittier, Phillips and Stevens Square neighborhoods in Minneapolis.
The winners of the Sept. 13 primary will go on to an Oct. 18 special election. The final winners will serve in the Senate until next year’s general election.
Berglin, a graphic designer by trade, became a specialist in health care issues in her time in the Legislature, chairing the Senate Health and Human Services committee for many years until the Republican takeover last year. Scheid, a substitute teacher, built a reputation as a business-friendly Democrat who chaired the Senate Commerce committee for several years.
In Senate District 46, registered nurse Chris Eaton received the local DFL Party endorsement against Tim Davis, who ran unsuccessfully for Brooklyn Park mayor last fall and ran twice for the Legislature as a Republican in 1998 and 2000.
Republicans endorsed IT consultant Cory Jensen against Ryan Sibinski, a sales and marketing specialist who ran against Scheid in 2010.
The general election will also include DFLer-turned Independence Party candidate Tom Reynolds.
In Senate District 61, Rep. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, a two-term House member, received the local DFL endorsement against a crowded field that includes Elsa Batica, a former deputy director of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department and nonprofit facilitator, graphic designer Kristian Heuer, tax auditor Sadik Warfa, web developer Kyle Wilson and longtime DFL Party staffer Paulette Will.
The general election will also include Green Party candidate Farheen Hakeem and Independence Party candidate Matt Brillhart.
Hayden is the establishment favorite to replace Berglin, having received her endorsement as well as those of numerous unions and GLBT organizations, along with that of Rep. Karen Clark, a DFLer who represents the neighboring district.
Hayden takes a more liberal position on health care reform than Berglin, and was chief author of a bill that would institute single-payer health care statewide.
“Health care is a priority for me as it is for Sen. Berglin, and I believe our goals are the same, health care coverage for all Minnesotans,” he said.
Batica said she’s worried about losing a strong, female voice in the Senate and believes she can bring more results than Hayden, despite not receiving the local party endorsement.
“My career as a facilitator and my ability to bring parties together to reach compromise is what I believe sets me apart,” she said. “I value and believe in the politics of inclusion.”
Will said she has a proven track record of advocacy and organizing that will serve the district well, if elected. Representing the district is her primary concern, she said.
“SD 61 will be one of the communities to first feel the impact of the new cuts in the federal budget,” she said. “(It) will be a barometer for what will be happening all across the state and country next year.”
Warfa’s campaign website lists fiscal conservativism, school choice and universal health coverage as top campaign issues.
Wilson’s campaign website lists cycling advocacy, single-payer health care and taxing the richest Minnesotans at the top of his issues list.
Heuer is a first-time candidate who is also a newcomer to political activism. He said he got into the race to “end the partisan bickering” in the Legislature.
Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center
In SD 46, Eaton, a past local and state DFL party official taking her first run at elected office, has racked up the endorsements, including ones from neighboring DFL Reps. Debra Hillstrom and Mike Nelson.
The wife of Brooklyn Center Mayor Tim Wilson is making her first run at elected office, basing her candidacy on continuing Scheid’s legacy.
“She had a total dedication to education and was a positive leader who worked across the aisle,” Eaton said. “I would like to be that person in the Legislature who bridges the partisan gaps and brings people together.”
On the Republican side, GOP-endorsed Jensen trumpets cutting taxes, cutting regulations and looking for efficiencies in the public education system as his top issues on his website.
The computer consultant, whose website says he buys and sells houses, has served on several Republican campaigns and as a local party official in the past.
Sibinski is running a libertarian-themed campaign emphasizing an end to corporate welfare, decriminalizing “victimless” crimes and greater economic freedom for Minnesotans.