Election 2020: MN Senate District 59

This district is currently represented by Bobby Joe Champion. On the ballot:

Suleiman Isse
Bobby Joe Champion (Incumbent)

I almost skipped this one because Suleiman Isse’s campaign has so little momentum that his campaign Twitter has eight followers. “How many people are following this person on social media” is an imperfect measurement of someone’s chances but there are outliers where you kinda have to say, clearly not a lot of people are invested here.

I found coverage of the race in Southwest Journal, which quoted Isse as saying “Everything is getting worse” and adds the following about his priorities:

If elected, he said, his top priority would be increasing mental and chemical health access, adding that there need to be more community-based clinics. He also wants to create an emergency-preparedness plan for COVID-19, to fund afterschool programming in District 59 and to encourage minority and female developers to build housing. He also supports a $15 minimum wage, legalizing marijuana and expunging cannabis-related convictions.

I quoted that whole thing because while his campaign website’s Issues page gets into some detail about housing and education, if you expand the “Advocate for Mental Health & Chemical Health Services” section it just says “Advocate for Mental Health & Chemical Health Services” with a picture. (It kind of looks like he’s been slowly expanding the info on the website, but at this point, the election is Tuesday. I’m not in the best spot to point fingers about unfinished election-related projects, but.)

Bobby Joe Champion had a financial scandal in 2014 that was possibly related to Jeff Hayden’s. People don’t seem to care as much, and I’m not sure why. (There are a ton of possible factors, including the possibility that people just really like him — just about everyone is more inclined to shrug off possible shenanigans from people they really like, and I’m certainly not immune.) His website is really not great — the issues page is here, if you need it, and leaves out one of his shining accomplishments (admittedly not one of the more recent ones), Minnesota’s ban-the-box legislation. (Which prohibits employers from asking up front if you have a criminal conviction.) This session he’s pushed for an addendum that would ban the box from applications to state commissions.

Possibly also of note: Champion initially filed for the 5th congressional district seat after Ellison jumped into the AG race. He withdrew, despite generally being viewed as a strong contender, saying there were too many people running and he didn’t want the race to turn nasty. Back in 2019 there were lots of rumors about people trying to talk him into running against Ilhan Omar; he did not file to run this time. My assessment of all this is that he’s someone with a willingness to set aside his personal ambition in favor of what he thinks is better for the DFL as a whole — possibly mixed with some pretty cold-eyed realism about whether a campaign is worth it (which is surprisingly rare, looking at some past races.)

Anyway: if I lived in SD 59, I would vote for Bobby Joe Champion.


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