Elections 2020: Minnesota House 66B

John Lesch is the incumbent and DFL-endorsed. On the ballot:

John Lesch
Athena Hollins

I didn’t know a lot about John Lesch but a quick search resulted in some extremely colorful stories. For example, in 2018 the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists (a charter school in downtown St. Paul) got pissy about the fact that the city granted a liquor license to one of its neighbors without their consent (when schools are supposed to have veto power over liquor licenses nearby). Former Mayor Chris Coleman responded on Facebook, saying, “I’m sorry but this is ridiculous. If you want a school in downtown, then you accept that you have a school in downtown. If it is inconsistent with your mission to be in close proximity to a vibrant mix of restaurants and businesses, then you should move.” (I agree with this! What the hell, seriously.)

John Lesch also apparently posted to social media but somewhat more colorfully. (Link goes to the news bank through the St. Paul Public library; use a SPPL card to access)

Lesch, who runs a law office downtown, noted that he’s put up with the high school students when they “nearly cause accidents by running through traffic on 5th and St. Peter, or when they walked 4 abreast through the skyways with arms linked and intimidated workers and customers.”

Lesch added: “You’re already not an ideal neighbor, so using a technical move to shut down a classy venue which actually contributes to the tax base makes you look like an ass.”

(I completely agree with Coleman, just to be clear, and I … maybe kind of agree with Lesch? Like the willingness to whip out ALSO HIGH SCHOOLERS ARE THE WORST is really…not the “I believe the children are our future” sort of thing that you expect from elected officials.) (Also, for the record, I find high schoolers charming and people who are “intimidated” by clueless kids walking arm in arm need to summon up some inner fortitude and bark “excuse me!” like adults normally do when teenagers get in their way. But, you know: if you build a high school downtown, it’s downtown. Deal with it.)

He also has had this weird ongoing conflict with City Attorney Lyndsey Olson. When Carter appointed her, Lesch sent this hair-raisingly negative letter about her to Carter. She sued him for defamation. Rick Nash, former adjutant general of the State National Guard (where both Olson and Lesch serve or served), sent a furious letter to the Pioneer Press defending Olson and saying “it is clear from the totality of circumstances to date that anonymous complaints were launched against Lyndsey Olson as part of an escalating harassment and bullying campaign by a small group. These investigations were unsubstantiated and closed. […] She has no misconduct record, and John Lesch’s statement of such is blatantly false, as is his inference of a negative connotation to her departure from her general counsel job.” The latest twist on this is that the State Supreme Court ruled that Lesch is not immune from the defamation claim. (That was in May.)

Anyway. Lesch seems to have a reasonably respectable legislative record, but some weird personal dramas, mostly with women. Hollins has a reasonably set of credentials (law degree, chair of Phalen Community Council, helped make the Phalen Community Council more representative of its area). Lesch is endorsed by the DFL and by a long list of labor unions. Hollins is endorsed by Nekima Levy Armstrong, Nelsie Yang, Mitra Jalali, Hodan Hassan, Zuki Ellis, Steve Marchese, Trista Matacastillo, and Sharon Sayles-Belton. There are a lot of people on that list whose opinions I respect and value. (OK, if you’re wondering who I’m throwing shade at: Steve Marchese.)

If I lived in 66B I would vote for Athena Hollins.

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