Elections 2018: Minnesota State Rep, 60B

This is currently Ilhan Omar’s seat, but she pulled out of this race to run for Keith Ellison’s when he pulled out of that race to run for Minnesota Attorney General. There are now seven people running to replace her.

On the ballot:

Mohamud Noor
Mary Mellen
Peter Wagenius
Angelo Jaramillo (has suspended his campaign & endorsed Noor)
Cordelia Pierson
Haaris Pasha
Joshua Preston

Peter Wagenius is a personal friend of mine.

So I’ll note that if I were voting in this race, I would definitely vote for Peter. I knew Peter in college and reconnected with him the very first time Ed and I went to a Senate District Convention, in 2000, when our State Senator (Wes Skoglund? I think?) was retiring and there was fairly intense fight over who was going to replace him. Peter was working for Julie Sabo’s campaign and talked me into supporting her (and then talked me into sticking around until after ten that night, while I was pregnant with my first child. That convention was 100% an endurance contest.) And then he talked me into dropping lit (did I mention the part about being pregnant?)

You should know my bias here, is what I’m saying. But also, part of why I would so unhesitatingly support Peter is that I’ve personally experienced his energy, organization, and ability to talk people into stuff, all of them key abilities for politicians who want to be effective. I think he’d be really good at this job.

But you come here for information round-up and opinions. And there are seven people on the ballot, so if you’re looking at Peter and thinking, “what else ya got?” … you’ve got some options! Here we go.

Mohamud Noor

Mohamud served on the Minneapolis School Board and has run for a lot of stuff, including this seat in 2014 (he lost to Phyllis Kahn) and this seat in 2016 (he lost to Ilhan Omar) and the Minneapolis City Council last year (he lost to Abdi Warsame). Here’s my writeup on him from 2017.

His campaign site is a Facebook page, which makes it hard to find useful information, but the endorsements are conveniently near the top — he’s endorsed by Susan Allen, Karen Clark, and Rena Moran from the legislature; Alondra Cano from the City Council; Londel French and AK Hassan from the Park Board; and Nelson Inz from the School Board. He’s also endorsed by Stonewall DFL.

Mohamud Noor is an immigrant from Somalia. He has worked for the county and the state as a computer programmer, and directs a local organization that serves immigrants. Having scrolled through all his Facebook posts, I found nothing about what his priorities in the state legislature would be, but apparently back in 2014 he was in favor of job creation via green economy investments; health care issues; and partnerships with the U of M. In an interview with the U of M student newspaper he talked about working to create student co-ops for less expensive student housing and the importance of lowering tuition.

Mary Mellen

Mary has a website that Capitalizes Every Single Word As She Explains Her Accomplishments Chronologically.

A sample accomplishment, from 2000: “Preserved Community Integrity. Rescued 1.3 Million in Funds Slated for the Cedar Riverside Area Community and Frozen by the City of Minneapolis When Fire Destroyed a Historic West Bank Landmark.” I would really like to know what the landmark was, how she “rescued” these funds and who they were slated for, and what her actual role here was. Like, did she organize a community group to lobby? Did she write an angry letter to the Star Tribune? … no info.

She’s a real estate agent and based on her website I don’t consider her a particularly serious candidate.

Peter Wagenius

Peter worked as a policy director for both RT Rybak and Betsy Hodges, so when he talks about his involvement in the Complete Streets plan, he’s not saying he wrote a letter to the Star Tribune.  He was also heavily involved in developing and passing the Minneapolis $15 minimum wage and sick/safe time policy.

He’s endorsed by Scott Dibble, Frank Hornstein, and Fue Lee from the state legislature; LaTrisha Vetaw from the Minneapolis Park Board; Cam Gordon and Lisa Bender from the City Council; and he may have the distinction of being the only candidate this year endorsed by former mayor Betsy Hodges.

His website says his major priorities would be fighting climate change; reducing disparities in education;  single payer health care; and a statewide $15 minimum wage. His issue videos also include one on transportation policy that I guess I’d sum up as, “hey, you know what? it’s super fucked up that people can’t safely cross streets on foot or by bike!” (only without the swearing, of course).

Angelo Jaramillo

Angelo is on the ballot but has suspended his campaign & endorsed Noor.

Cordelia Pierson

Corde Pierson is the director of the Minnesota Environmental Fund, which is like the United Way of environmental causes, complete with workplace giving campaigns. (From her LinkedIn campaign resume: ” Engaged more workplaces in employee giving and volunteering; Increased employee giving and volunteering within workplaces.”) Here are the Clean Water groups they support.

She’s run for office before — most recently, she ran for Jacob Frey’s old seat on the City Council in 2017, but withdrew after losing the endorsement to Steve Fletcher.

On her website, she says her priorities will be “addressing the state of education, housing, health and environment, implicit bias training, and economic inequality in District 60B and throughout the state of Minnesota.” That’s all fine. Here are my hesitations about her:

  • While running for City Council in 2017, she was waffley on the $15/hour minimum wage. Like, for it some places, undecided others. The way she framed it tended to match up strongly with the rhetoric used by people pushing for carve-outs for tipped workers although she never specifically brought that up, as far as I know.
  • Her history in neighborhood advocacy tends to match up strongly with a lot of NIMBY-type “of course I like density, just not near my house” type stuff. Lots of concern for historical preservation, including the preservation of a drive-through bank on the grounds that it “may represent a lost architecture.” In an article that makes it clear that the push for historical designation was very much about preventing the construction of taller buildings, she suggested that increasing the concentration of students living in Dinkytown was causing more violent crime.
  • Like a lot of neighborhood activists, she’s decrying gentrification while also pushing for policies that make it impossible to build enough housing to meet demand, and justifying it by saying that market-rate housing developments don’t help. (That questionnaire also included this jaw-dropping statement: “I’m a landlord myself, and I’ve witnessed the average rent price jump over the past couple years.” Who knew that Minneapolis sets rent prices centrally, with landlords helpless to refuse to comply?) She talks some about the missing middle in that questionnaire and doesn’t seem to be opposed to it; I wasn’t able to find any comments from her on the fourplex proposal in the Minneapolis comprehensive plan.
  • Here’s what she says about affordable housing on her website. I mean, she’s not wrong that people in affordable housing need access to transit and services and so on  but this is frequently code for, “we need to keep the affordable housing on the busy streets and out of neighborhood interiors.” (And you can see some of my suspicions confirmed here: “Pierson said development along transit corridors in the Marcy-Holmes area is encouraging, but building elsewhere could interfere with the neighborhood’s unique character.”)

Am I being too hard on her? It’s possible I’m being too hard on her. She is the more viable woman in the race, if that’s important to you. She seems to be strong on conservation and park development, including riverfront stuff and bike trails. She wants to require implicit bias training for police officers and other groups that work with the public. She’s in favor of merit pay for teachers. Her education page says, “No student should be heavily burdened by debt after graduating from college,” but rather than telling you how she’d approach this (lowering tuition at the U of M?) she segues into how we need more guidance counselors so that students will have “ample guidance in determining the post-secondary plan that is best for them” and I’m sorry, this may not be what she meant, but it’s hard not to read that as, “students shouldn’t be burdened by debt, and poor students who can’t afford college should be advised not to go.”

I don’t know.

She’s endorsed by WomenWinning and I couldn’t find any other endorsements.

Haaris Pasha

Haaris Pasha has a pop-up on his campaign website trying to get you to friend him on Facebook. Why do so many sites (it’s not just campaign sites) have pop-ups that interrupt you while you’re reading to pester you? How am I supposed to evaluate whether I wish to subscribe to your newspaper until I have read your material? Super annoying.

Haaris is a law student at the U of M law school (expected to receive his JD in 2019.)  He’s young; he received his BA in 2012. In between graduating college and starting law school, he worked for the NAACP in police-community relations.

He says his priorities are student loan forgiveness, home care for seniors, affordable housing, and racial justice, and he goes into some detail into those on his site. He wants to ban Section 8 discrimination — honestly, I don’t understand why landlords were ever allowed to discriminate against Section 8 tenants; the whole point of a voucher is that it’s money you can use to pay anyone.

He wants to fully fund all-day Pre-K for all Minnesotan children, eliminate charter schools, provide tuition-free colleges and universities, forgive student loans for anyone who spends five years doing public service.

Under the “Health Care” tab I realized why he is so tuned in to senior care stuff — his father had a stroke last summer. (I’m not being flippant here. I’m not sure I have ever run into a candidate who had spent more than two minutes thinking about this issue unless they’ve had to try to find care for a loved one.) He gives some more information on his section on home care: “When my dad finally came home, we needed somebody to take care of him while my mom was at work. We were baffled when we found out that insurance did not cover home-care. My mom was forced into early retirement because it was cheaper for her to stay at home than to work and pay for home-care.”

You can actually get “care in the community,” which can include home care or care in an assisted living facility as opposed to a skilled nursing facility through elderly waiver — but to qualify for EW you have to spend down nearly all your assets first, as it’s run through Medicaid. (You’re allowed to keep $3,000.) When you’re a married couple and one person has become severely disabled and the other person is in good health and trying to save for retirement (or for college for their kids) you are in an absolutely nightmarish Catch-22 and you are basically fucked.

Anyway, he has financial plans outlined for how he’d fund Single Payer and home care for all; I didn’t see anything explaining where he’d get funding for the tuition-free college.

He’s been heavily involved in pushing back against privatization of public housing in Minneapolis.

He has one endorsement from a former state legislator; if he has any others, I couldn’t find them.

Joshua Preston

Joshua is also a law student, raised by a single mother in poverty. His focus is education, tuition costs, and loan forgiveness, with a side of affordable housing, single-payer health care, and criminal justice reform.

I found his website really frustrating. It was designed on a wider-screened monitor than I have, so stuff gets cut off on the sides (I see “LUNTEER” instead of “VOLUNTEER”), lots of the text is actually graphic images of text, and the parts that are normal text are in this small, ultra-light font that probably looks great if, like Joshua, you are not yet 30. I am 45 and I’m having a bad-eyesight day today and the site is extremely difficult for me to read.  (Okay, scrolling down, it looks like his social media manager is a high school student. That’s awesome, but if you’re going to have a high school student managing your web presence you have got to have a talk about accessibility or everything will be in 9 point Calibri Light.)

He is endorsed by a group called MAIV PAC which is a Hmong women’s PAC. He serves as the student rep on the U of M Board of Regents.

So, where does that leave us?

If I lived in the district and didn’t know any of the candidates personally, I think I would lean toward Peter but at least seriously consider Mohamud Noor due mostly to his endorsements (because if he has a website talking about what he’d want to do in the legislature, I couldn’t find it). be torn between Peter Wagenius and Mohamud Noor. Given that they’ve divided up most of the endorsements, I think they’re the two most likely to win the primary.

There was a forum held at the U of M with all the candidates, where they did a straw poll at the end; Peter came in first with 36%, followed apparently by Haaris. I don’t know how to even gauge whether that’s meaningful in any way.

If you live in the district and want a say in who your next representative is, you will definitely want to turn out for the primary; Ilhan Omar won this seat with over 80% of the vote.





2 thoughts on “Elections 2018: Minnesota State Rep, 60B

  1. Hi Naomi,

    This is Haaris Pasha! Thank you for your helpful feedback. We will disable the annoying pop-up. I agree that it is annoying, my apologies!

    – Haaris

  2. Ha! I know Peter as well! He went to South and was . . . I don’t remember. Some years ahead of me. Two I think? He was in my Spanish class, as I recall, as well as Ceramics. Peter, I hope you win.

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