Election 2020: MN Senate 62

In Minnesota State Senate District 62, here’s who’s on the ballot in the DFL primary:

Jeff Hayden (Incumbent)
Omar Fateh (DFL-endorsed)

This is one of those races where the differences in candidates, based on their websites, are often kind of subtle. They both support a $15 statewide minimum wage; Omar Fateh specifies that it should be pegged to inflation. Jeff Hayden’s website says “Housing is a human right”; Omar Fateh wants to pass an actual constitutional amendment to the state constitution saying that housing is a human right. Overall, based on their websites, Omar Fateh is more left-wing. On the other hand, legislation is a learning curve and there are advantages to being represented by someone who’s been around a few cycles (as long as they do not suck). The bottom line is not actually, “this person is more committed and therefore homelessness will be SOLVED,” it’s “whoever we send will spend a bunch of time negotiating / assembling deals / pleading and in the end if we’re lucky we will get some amount of money from the state for projects that will add to our affordable housing stock in some way.”

But: it’s also pretty rare that a DFL convention doesn’t endorse the incumbent unless people are really pretty eager for a change. I threw out the question to my Facebook friends: “Did Jeff Hayden actually DO ANYTHING that made people decide he was Bad and had to be Replaced?

So — there was in fact one scandal:

Community Action of Minneapolis was a taxpayer-funded organization tasked with providing heating assistance and weatherization to low-income residents. A Department of Human Services (DHS) audit last year found that the nonprofit misspent at least $800,000 between 2011 and 2013 for everything from a car loan for the chief executive, Bill Davis, to travel, golf and other unauthorized expenses.

Hayden was on the board; he and his wife received $3,500 in trips, “spa treatments” and other perks; they said they did not personally profit from the organization (that the trips were organizational business and the expenses incurred were legitimate) (seriously, spa treatments, though? That’s not usually a covered expense when someone else is paying for your travel) and they paid $2,750 to settle claims that they’d benefited.

So like on one hand, $3,500 when an organization misspent at least $800,000 is small potatoes. On the other hand, being on the board of a fraudulent organization is not a great look and accepting reimbursement for going to a spa when you’re in any sort of position that should be providing any sort of fiscal oversight is even less of a good look. (Being a “board member” is such a massively mixed bag, there are boards where people do real work and boards where it means you are expected to make periodic large donations and show up for meetings where you rubber-stamp stuff. But if they’re sending you on trips, and they’re the fun sort of trips… yeah, this is shady.)

One of my politically active friends added some additional commentary:

Omar Fateh organized like all get out. His team has been out on the ground in Mpls helping people the last several weeks (not in campaign swag). Spoke extensively about a lot of public services to residents like making transit free. […] Jeff Hayden has sent more emails since the endorsing convention than during his time in office total, and I was a delegate who supported him then.

The SD62 chair, Lara Zeidner, also added some commentary:

It’s not that he did something, its that he doesn’t do anything, according to many. I appreciate that he has very few bad votes, but the Senator hasn’t fought for what people really need. Omar Fateh has a comprehensive platform that centers the working class struggle for fair housing, wages, healthcare, etc. Jeff’s vision seems to be continuing to give a couple million dollars to our local nonprofit industrial complex every year.

The Fateh campaign (full disclosure, I work for him), is 100% grassroots, people-powered, etc. He won the convention because he went out of his way to call all the delegates as much as possible and helped make sure people voted (I believe we had some of the highest turnout in the state, and he won by 45%). Hayden didn’t bother to campaign, he felt entitled to the endorsement, and was not nice to the district leaders when he lost.

I have not heard Hayden mention housing once during this campaign, its the central part of Fateh’s platform, and its what most of our neighbors seem to be concerned about. Even if Hayden had been more successful with his police reform bills, it wouldn’t have been enough to satisfy the calls from protesters. Hayden insists that he supports Single Payer Healthcare and Green New Deal politics, but he’s funding his campaign with a PAC backed by oil and healthcare lobbyists (a literal Enbridge lobbyist donated to the PAC).

SD62 is among the most progressive and diverse districts in the state. We need a leader who’s going to listen to people and represent a working class agenda in the Senate, rather than rest on their laurels. In 2018, the district picked Hodan Hassan and Aisha Gomez to represent us in the House because they were progressive and community oriented leaders. If we want to flip the Senate, we need folks who will similarly challenge the DFL party line, and supporter bolder visions than in the past. I think that’s something that Fateh will be very capable of doing, and its why he’s earned my support.

Another friend from the district who I think is supporting Jeff added the following:

I should also say that Jeff was very supportive of The Family Partnership’s efforts to build a new childcare and service center at Lake and Bloomington. This project is closely allied with a PPL-Claire Housing project to build supportive housing for people in recovery on 16th Street. Minnesota has a lot of “progressive” candidates for office all the time, but one of the things that keeps people in office is their ability to do concrete things for their constituents that move the needle in big or small ways. Jeff has done that; I can think of some other progressive candidates in the city who only reach out when THEY want something from the community or its institutions, but have zero interest in talking to us the rest of the time.

Comparing their official endorsements, here are Jeff’s:

  • A whoooooooooole bunch of Labor organizations, plus Everytown for Gun Safety
  • Peggy Flanagan

  • Keith Ellison

  • Andrea Jenkins

  • Londel French (Park Board)

  • Bradley Bourn (Park Board)

  • Former Minneapolis Park Board Member Mary Merrill

  • State Senator Bobby Joe Champion

  • State Rep Ruth Richardson

  • State Rep Rena Moran

  • Former State Rep Karen Clark

  • Former State Senator Linda Berglin

Here are some of Omar’s (he doesn’t have a convenient copy-and-pasteable list):

  • The DFL, the Young DFL, DSA, BLM of St. Paul, and the Sierra Club
  • Chris Meyer (Park Board)
  • Jono Cowgill (Park Board)
  • Angela Conley (Hennepin County Commissioner)
  • Ira Jourdain (Minneapolis School Board)
  • Josh Pauly (Minneapolis School Board)
  • Alondra Cano
  • State Senator John Hoffman

(Also lots and lots of everyday people are included as endorsements, which is charming but makes it harder to sift through for the elected officials I know something about, and weirdly, Alondra Cano is in the “everyday folks” section even though she’s a City Council rep.)

FWIW, there are people I like, whose judgment I think highly of, on both of those lists.

The personal touch aspect of campaigning is really powerful, and the fact that Omar organized so energetically is a good sign. I think that combined with the financial shenanigans with Community Action would swing me to Omar Fateh.




3 thoughts on “Election 2020: MN Senate 62

  1. This race does not directly affect me at all. Although having more progressives elected to the legislature does. I used to live near there and am familiar with the area. That’s all background. My comment really is how much I appreciate your dedication to covering politics and researching before forming your opinions and writing. I also appreciate the clarity of your prose, which I’ve come to expect. I see this as you taking on a civic duty too few of us, myself included, area willing to do. Thank you for this very useful, informative, and enjoyable public service. Rick Gellman

  2. It’s a bit late now, 🙂 , but my wife just forwarded me this.

    I was a delegate to the 62 convention. One thing that I would have mentioned, if I’d seen this earlier, is that it was an odd convention, taking place virtually because of COVID-19. As someone who is pretty strict about voting for the party’s endorsee, I didn’t really feel that way this time because it didn’t seem quite like a normal endorsement.

    Omar Fateh must have called me personally at least a half a dozen times prior to the voting. I think I got one phone call from Jeff Hayden. But, I did vote to endorse Hayden and also voted for him in the primary. In the end, I think I would describe my motivation as not being particularly comfortable with the idea of voting out a (relatively) prominent Black politician in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. That just left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

    I am nevertheless excited for Omar and looking forward to voting for him in the general.

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