OPINION | State Senator Linda Berglin retires


State Senator Linda Berglin will retire Aug. 15. She was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1972 by a coalition of neighborhood radicals organized by Reverend Bryan Peterson of Walker Community Church. Bryan was very active in Southside neighborhood politics in the ’70s and ’80s defending housing from downtown developers. When he died a few years later and Linda and I were at the cemetery standing by his coffin, with a bulldozer behind it waiting for the mourners to leave so it could deposit Bryan in the open grave, Linda said to me, “I always thought he’d lie down in front of a bulldozer, but I never thought it would be like this.”

Linda ran for the State Senate in 1980. The Farmer-Labor Association, a radical left wing of the DFL had targeted State Senator Steve Keefe as vulnerable. He was a moderate Democrat, but he was anti-choice. The FLA endorsed Karen Clark to challenge Keefe. Amazingly, Keefe retired. Berglin, being a representative from half the senate district, believed she should get the seat. Clark, since it was her candidacy that drove Keefe out of the race, believed she had the greater right to the seat. The DFL Convention deadlocked. Ballots went on and on. Clark was ahead but couldn’t get the 60% needed for endorsement. It was clear that there would be no endorsement, and in that case Berglin would probably win the election because of greater name identification. The compromise, that everyone in Minnesota has lived with for the last 31 years, was that Clark would withdraw from the senate contest and be endorsed for Berglin’s house seat. And the rest is herstory.

Governor Dayton has set Tuesday, Oct. 18, as the date for a special election to fill the seat. The last day to file for the seat is Aug. 3. Anyone who is a resident of the district and who will be 21 on Jan. 1, 2012, is eligible to file at the Elections Office on the Public Service Level of the Hennepin County Government Center, 300 S. Sixth St. If two or more DFLers or Republicans file for the seat, then there will be a partisan primary election on Sept. 13. All other candidates will be on the general election ballot.

Jeff Hayden, the incumbent DFL representative from the southern half of the district, has said he will run. He would have to be considered the strongest candidate at this point.

Niklas Ludwig, the Ron Paul revolutionary who heads the 5th District Republican Party, has said, “I think Professor Nathan Higgins is going to be our next state senator in SD61.” But it’s too early to see how serious that is.

Kristian Heuer has announced his candidacy on the Minneapolis Issues List. He says he isn’t a Democrat or a Republican: “I am just an average citizen who wants better for his state.” He does say he would tax the rich to increase revenue.

It would be smart for the Green Party to field a strong candidate and work hard for his or her election, even though the odds are in favor of Hayden. If Hayden wins, then his seat becomes open, and another special election would be called to fill that seat, and a Green Party candidate would be in the strongest position ever to win a seat in the Minnesota Legislature.