Minnesota Runs 2018: Women & Minorities Running for Office in Minnesota

Two years ago we heard nothing but complaints about our choices for who to vote for in the 2016 presidential election.

We hear complaints that there aren’t enough minority or female voices in the process.

People are frustrated that their views aren’t represented.

I’m a big believer in ‘stop complaining and start doing.’

We’re heading into the 2018 midterm elections, with all of the U.S. House, a third of the U.S. Senate, and control of state legislatures and governors’ offices around the country, as well as all kinds of local races on the line.

If you want to see candidates you support, now is the time to get involved. Here in Minnesota, caucusing begins Feb. 6. This is a byzantine process for parties to endorse their preferred candidate. It’s not the only path to office, but it’s a big one. So it’s time to start paying attention.

Yes, it’s early, and the candidate picture is not entirely clear. Some folks will drop out when the endorsements happen, others won’t make it past the primaries. Still more candidates might step up down the road. But now is the time to speak into the process.

Minority Representation in Minnesota

Minorities make up 19% of the population in Minnesota, but in the legislature hold about 8% of offices. And that’s a new record when 16 minority candidates were elected in 2016 (previously it was 5%).

I know some people bristle when I talk about supporting minority candidates, as if I’m hopping on the bandwagon because someone is a person of color. They’re all set to cry reverse racism!

That’s not what I’m doing. But I do understand that representation matters. It matters when kids of color can look up to role models who look like them. Just ask my kids how they feel about women or people of color in office.

If you’re concerned about minority representation in Minnesota, then it starts now. You need to have a voice early in the process.

Minority Candidates in Minnesota

There are a number of campaigns featuring diverse candidates that might be worth looking into.

Disclaimers:

  • I’ve done my research as well as I can, trying to rely on candidates who self-identify as a person of color or LGBTQ. I’m sure I’ve missed folks, so feel free to speak up in the comments.
  • Most of the POC/LBGTQ candidates I list below are with the DFL party.  According to the Republican party chairman Keith Downey, recruiting candidates of diverse racial backgrounds is not a top priority for the party.
  • Let me be clear that this is not an endorsement list.

Minnesota House

Minnesota Attorney General

Lori Swanson is the incumbent and hasn’t indicated if she’s going to run again.

Minnesota State Auditor

Incumbent Rebecca Otto is running for Minnesota Governor.

U.S. House

  • CD2 – Angie Craig (D) (faces a fight for the DFL endorsement with Jeff Erdmann, hoping to unseat incumbent Republican Jason Lewis, who won with 47% in 2016 against Craig)
  • CD5 – Keith Ellison (D) (incumbent, won with 65% in 2016)

(I’m sure [I hope!] there are many more minority candidates in local races, just like we saw in the 2017 elections. I haven’t seen any info on local 2018 races, so I didn’t even try to include them.)

For more help in supporting and recruiting minority candidates, check out Blueprint Campaigns and the DFL Stonewall CaucusRun for Something is also an organization recruiting younger candidates andHigher Heights focuses on black women.

What About Women?

While the 2016 elections did see more minority diversity in Minnesota’s legislature, it also saw representation for women drop from 68 to 64 out of 200 (70 women has been the high water mark).

With the 2017 Women’s March being repeated across the country in 2018 (in some cases with even more turnout), women running for office has been a huge story.

As you might expect, there are a lot more women running for office on both sides of the aisle, which makes tracking them a lot harder. I’m probably missing a lot, but let’s give it a shot.

Disclaimers:

  • Again, let’s be clear that this is not an endorsement list.
  • I did my research and tried to find as many campaigns as I could. I’m sure I’m missing some.

Minnesota Senate

  • 54 (Special election Feb. 12) – Karla Bigham (D) (Bigham won)

Minnesota House

Minnesota Attorney General

Minnesota State Auditor

Minnesota Governor

U.S. House

U.S. Senate

Seat 1:

Seat 2:

If you’re interested in seeing more women run for office, there are lots of organizations that can help, including She Should Run, Vote Run Lead, and Higher Heights. Here in Minnesota, Woman Winning, Blueprint Campaigns, and Friends of DFL Women are also organizations to check out. Run for Something is also an organization recruiting younger candidates.

A Word About Endorsements & Primaries

The Star Tribune explored candidates of color breaking into the process in 2016. The article quotes the state DFL party chairman, Ken Martin, who talks about the challenge of candidates running in a primary against the DFL-endorsed candidate.

“They don’t understand how it works and when they don’t end up getting a result to their liking, they end up running in a primary,” says Martin. “We don’t encourage that at all, obviously.”

Yet that’s how current Governor Mark Dayton got the job. He refused to participate in the party caucus system and instead ran in the primary, narrowly defeating the DFL-endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher.

That’s also how Fue Lee and Ilhan Omar got their seats.

So Now What? Get Involved!

OK, that’s a long list of people in far-flung districts you may not care about. And just because there’s a woman or a person of color or whatever running doesn’t mean you support that person.

So the point is to get involved. Here are a few tips.

Local Candidates: Who Are Your Candidates

The first and best step is to find out who your local candidates are. Who can you vote for? Do you like those candidates? Do you support them? If so, get involved and support them. If not, find a candidate you do support (or maybe you should run).

Close or Not Races?

It also helps to do some research on which seats are “safe” and which aren’t. Elections can be unpredictable (see 2016), so you never know, but sometimes things are reasonably predictable.

If races in your area are “safe,” maybe you want to support races elsewhere in the state. (Here’s a list of “races to watch” in the Minnesota House)

If you want to see your party take or maintain control, you may need to look at supporting a wider array of races.

Get Involved

OK, people always talk about getting involved in politics. What does that mean? How do I do that? Well, start educating yourself. Read up on the issues and what your elected officials say. Find groups online so you can stay updated on your local races.

Follow candidates you like on Facebook or Twitter. Actually contact your elected officials and tell them what you think.

When you’re ready to support a candidate, that can take on a lot of forms:

  • Sharing links on social media
  • Door knocking
  • Writing letters to the editor
  • Contacting your friends/family/network
  • Attending events
  • Caucusing (being a part of the endorsement process with a political party)
  • Donating

And I’m really a rookie at this, so there’s a lot more you can do.

A Word About Donating

I’m not big on donating to political campaigns. Like most people, I don’t have a lot of spare cash to throw around. I’m also skeptical about what my money is going toward and whether or not it’s worth it.

That being said, candidates do need money and support. If you believe in a candidate, you should find some way to support them. Even if it’s a $10 donation, that’s something.

Minnesota also offers a Political Contribution Refund, where the state will reimburse donations to political campaigns, up to $50 per person. So you can donate $50 to the campaign (or campaigns, and spread your $50 around) of your choice, and the state will reimburse you.

So even if you can’t afford to donate much, you can pitch in $50 and get it back.

I’m not sure why every Minnesotan doesn’t do this (I know it was just recently reinstated). It’s pretty great, and we should spread the word about it.

2018 Elections

November 2018 feels like a long way off. But if you want to see candidates running that you’re proud and excited to support, then you should be speaking into the process now.

Most of this list covered Minnesota House campaigns and other statewide offices. In most cases, it’s too early to know much about races like city council, school board, mayor, county commissioner, etc. You should pay attention to those races as well (or run yourself).

Politicians you’re proud of have to start somewhere. 2018 is a good year to be a part of it.

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