Courts approved newly updated legislative maps after the census ended and an open seat in the heavily Democratic-leaning State House has multiple candidates vying for the job.
A panel of five Justice-appointed Minnesota Supreme Court Justices has approved and finalized the state’s new legislative districts, which will form the political map for the next decade after the release of 2020 U.S. Census data. All ten years, the political maps are redrawn, changing the political landscape of the previous decades. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are growing, and with more residents, they are gaining seats. Legislators typically redraw these maps by carving up the state by streets and topographies, sometimes changing so much that their titular representative no longer lives there.
In the maps the Supreme Court adopted for the state, Hamline University was dragged into a new seat. In 2020, voters living in Hamline voted for candidates from District 66B, currently represented by Athena Hollins. Students and neighbors in the North Midway area who voted for Athena Hollins will no longer be represented by her.
Hamline voters now reside in Home District 66A. 66A has been represented by Democrat Alice Hausman since 1989, and after more than three decades in the State House, Hausman opted out of seeking her 18th term in the body. Hausman’s work has focused heavily on affordable housing legislation and she has served as Chair of the Housing and Finance Committee for the past four years.
66A has historically consisted of parts of Roseville, Falcon Heights, and Lauderdale. Since being redesigned, it now includes all of the northern part of the Midway and much of the western side. 66A has been in the hands of the DFL for at least 34 years, with Hausman serving all those terms and is considered safe blue in the November 2022 election. The primary could be contentious, with 3 candidates announcing their intention to run in the Primary DFL.
Yakash Wehyee, a Hamline University alumnus, was the first candidate to be announced. He is currently a member of the Falcon Heights City Council. Dave Thomas, a former Minnesota National Guardsman and U.S. Army veteran, and Leigh Finke, an activist working for the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and if elected, would also be the first elected transgender lawmaker in the state. of Minnesota.
Wehyee graduated from Hamline with a degree in political science and history. During his Hamline tenure, he was heavily involved in the campus community; is part of the Black Student Union, Residential Housing Association, Commitment to Community and University Diversity Steering Committee. In 2019, he was elected to the Falcon Heights City Council.
“What I ran on was really just to help our community recover from the Philando Castile incident that happened in our community. It was really still very important in people’s minds. And I just wanted to be part of the healing process,” Weehey said.
Castille was a black resident of Falcon Heights, who during a traffic stop by St. Anthony police was killed while trying to obtain his concealed carry gun permit in 2016.
Finke, on the other hand, was not elected, but she has a long history of activism and involvement in the DFL party.
“I am a journalist, lawyer and filmmaker. I worked in journalism and documentaries for about a decade. I have been in advocacy and activism for a long time; 20 years, it really started with the war in Iraq when I was in college,” she said.
Finke said she was inspired to come forward watching an unprecedented attack on LGBTQ families across the country, referencing more than 280 statehouse bills that were filled during or preemptively for the 2022 legislative session, according to the Human Rights Campaign and reported by the United States. Today January 20.
“I’m pretty desperate for trans representation. This is something that has interested me for a long time. I thought about, you know, exploring that,” Finke said when asked why she decided to put her hat in the ring.
Wehyee and Finke both spoke about how the student debt crisis has directly affected them, saying they both want to support Hamline students in the state legislature. Wehyee says that when he was a freshman, he was interviewed by Kare11 on campus who asked him about his college debt.
“I was so naive. I said, ‘you know what, it’s okay, I just want to get an education.’ In retrospect, that wasn’t the right answer. Because now, 10 years later, I’m about $80,000 in debt,” Wehyee said.
Finke, who has been out of college for 17 years, has been in the Federal Civil Service Cancellation Program for 11 years and is trying to get his debt forgiven. The program is supposed to be a 10-year program, however, recent reports have shown that only a handful of applicants are approved for loan forgiveness.
“It’s linked to a lot of other issues, like economic sanity. I mean, I just think there’s a real sense of burden that people carry when they have [that debt]. I’ve been out of college for 17 years, you know, I want to get away from it and everyone else too. And we can find a way to do that,” Finke said.
The three candidates now face off at the DFL’s district convention, where party delegates will choose to endorse one of them or sit out until the August primaries. DFL approval is not binding; one of the three candidates could win the nomination, but lose to one of their competitors in the August primary, and then become the new approved candidate. That said, an endorsement from the DFL’s district convention would unlock plenty of party funds and resources that could facilitate a primary victory.