Marcus Harcus, a DFL member running against incumbent Joe Mullery in Minnesota House of Representatives District 59A suspended active campaigning on July 1, but “if elected I would serve,” he said. His name will stay on the ballot, so NorthNews offered both candidates this forum and the same questions as the 59B candidates. The winner in this contest will face Cindy Lilly, the Republican, in November.
Marcus Harcus, DFL
Harcus said, “I was a candidate a couple of times in my 20s but I wouldn’t count those.” He said in 2009 when he ran for City Council, “I actually wanted to get elected. I have now done a lot of lobbying and public policy work. Because a lot of that is at the legislature I felt the State House would be the best for me. I’m dissatisfied with most politicians and wanted to create structural change.”
In his yet-unpublished comprehensive blog post explaining the personal and economic factors of withdrawing, he said he had developed a plan to contact all eligible voters and increase turnout dramatically in a low-turnout district, but could not find the campaign management support or money to do it. He has said some friends were going to be calling to continue to get out the vote.
Harcus said there’s a wide variety of ways the state impacts what happens locally, with 24 departments. He said he’s most interested in education finance and education reform, wanting to increase spending for education and working with the state Department of Education on teacher effectiveness.
He said he would also work on a more equitable tax system, restoring local government aid to offset some of the property tax burden, “and there are a lot of areas of law that people don’t think about. We need to increase access to justice for people who can’t buy it.”
Harcus said his talent for actually getting things done at the legislature would stem from his abilities as a community organizer and lobbyist. “I would strategically study the profiles of the [legislators involved] and would meet with all of them diplomatically. I’m basically non-partisan but they would know where I stand.” He also said legislators need to do effective media advocacy. “They hate bad press” so it can be used to move issues forward. Harcus’ latest position was with MinnCAN, an organization working on public school reform.
Joe Mullery, DFL
Qualifications: “Seniority, experience and knowledge, and great relationships” including visiting state agency meetings between sessions. He chose not to run for the open Senate seat, saying “it would have been beneficial to me but detrimental to the Northside. I have 16 years of seniority and will get a good committee to chair if we regain the majority; whereas, a new legislator starts at the bottom and it takes a great many years to get a good chairmanship. I have very good relationships with most chairs,” Mullery said.
Mullery “understand(s) the legal issues and I often catch language which would have caused problems for our people. Also, I often figure out ways to do things when others say it can’t be done. For instance, it really makes me feel good when people tell me that one of the laws that was solely my idea kept them from losing their home. I have a good memory of what went on before on issues.”
“I have deep connections to the different elements of our population. I have been close to the African-American community for several decades. Roughly 40 years ago, I was one of the first two whites invited to join a black social club. Many of the leaders in the black community come to me to get things done,” Mullery said.
I’ve been the legislator most involved with minority hiring and contracting for over a decade, and am the leader on youth development. I’ve helped minority-owned businesses for decades. I have fought for “gay rights” for decades, including almost getting fired from my job once. I’ve lived in the community my whole life and my dad taught at Patrick Henry High for 39 years. Yet, I’m attuned to the lifestyle of many of our new neighbors, especially bicycling.
One key issue? “I’d like to see enough money put into youth on our Northside to completely close the achievement gap in school and to work with children and their families from prenatal to age 21 by providing services” to make every child a well-functioning citizen. “But that would require so much money that it is not realistic,” Mullery said.
“I think there is a possibility that we could pass a Neighborhood Stabilization and Foreclosure Prevention package.” It would be based on “many of my ideas in bills I introduced which would keep good people from losing their homes just because they are out of work temporarily due to the recession caused by the wrongful actions of Wall Street. I introduced many bills, but the Republican committee chairs wouldn’t hear them. Such a package would also provide a way to force banks to act responsibly toward neighborhoods in dealing with foreclosed properties, and would allow local governments to step in where the property is a detriment to the neighborhood. Additionally, the package would have plenty of funds to help rebuild our neighborhoods.”
About getting things done: Mullery said he already has a strong reputation as a legislator who is not “playing games. I often refuse to criticize Republicans when I don’t feel it is appropriate. I am very critical of them often, but I usually do it in a way that isn’t very offensive. Also, I work hard and learn issues, so they know I know what I am talking about. Even if others don’t agree with me, they usually respect my opinion. I am considered as one of the best at “getting along with” Republicans, and Democrats from Greater Minnesota and the suburbs, as well as urban Democrats. I’ve had 30 years as an attorney who had to fight like hell for my client; but stay on good terms so that we could eventually sit down and negotiate. That experience has been invaluable at the legislature where almost everything is centered around negotiation.”