Meet the Candidates Vying for Your Vote November 8

compiled by casey ek
General elections are Nov. 8. Meet some of the candidates hoping to earn our neighborhoods’ votes.

General elections are Nov. 8. Meet some of the candidates vying for your vote. Responses to the Community Reporter’s questions may have been edited for brevity.

Ramsey County District 5

Please describe the biggest issues Ramsey County is facing and how you would address those challenges if elected.

Rafael Ortega, Incumbent, commissionerrafaelortega.wordpress.com

1. I will continue to build our transit system to get people to where they need to go safely and reliably.

2.To address Public Safety: In the last two years, we have hired 40 new county staff, including specialists in the 911 call center and social workers. I am also working with Betty McCollum to get almost $1 million in Group Violence Intervention funding.

3. I continue to strengthen our East Metro economy by supporting developments on the riverfront, Arden Hills and elsewhere in Ramsey County.

4. We remain focused on shoring up our food, housing and mental health infrastructure so we are ready to serve our most vulnerable through good times and bad.

Bill Hosko, billhosko.org

1. Declining public safety and growing crime rates that the public is expected to live with it. Local leaders are now often picking and choosing which laws will be enforced. This needs to end.

 2. Unending county/city property tax levy increases continue to financially harm homeowners, business owners and renters.

 3. After 28 years in office our current county board representative has awarded himself numerous pay and pension increases. Today, while county board members tell us about how they’re helping the poor and creating ‘a just community’, as of June, their salary is now $100,000 for a part-time job. 

 4. During its planning process in 2007-2011, I warned leaders that building ‘honor-system’ light rail in St. Paul would create problems. Since opening in 2014, thousands have been impacted by crime aboard the Green Line and on its platforms. Politicians refuse to install fences and gates to restore safety to platforms.

 Today, as chair of the Ramsey County’s Rail Authority, County Board Member Ortega is now leading the planning process to bring ‘honor-system’ light rail to the length of West 7th Street from downtown to the Mall of America. Selling it to us under the name ‘Modern Streetcar.’ It is honor-system light rail, and it will eliminate every on-street parking space, thereby harming many businesses in addition to being crime-plagued. 

In our first 90 days together, we will address light rail on West 7th Street, and we’ll address property tax levies and crime, Union Depot, the West Publishing site and the county board’s pay-scale. Further, I will work to also ensure there can be a menu of important referendum questions for the public to vote on during the next county elections in 2024. If passed, we’ll get back onto a higher track for years to come. 

Under your leadership, what role would the county play in alleviating the challenges of homeless in a way that serves those in need while accounting for the needs of the city at large? Also, what initiatives would you put forward to ensure St. Paul successfully recovers from the pandemic, which continues to show its effects on the city’s financial life?

RO: To address Homelessness, we opened two new shelters in my district. In 2021, we created the HRA Levy to provide new money for housing every year. We are also building over 400 units of affordable housing. And with the city and the federal government, we will provide $74 million for housing in the coming year. It’s still not enough but we are doing our part.

BH: The majority of homeless are not criminals, nor are they mentally ill. Often, they are portrayed this way. Secondly, 20 years ago, most homeless here were regionally local. Today, most are from other states. Regardless, the majority of these people have had some calamity befall them, and once a person has fallen so far it can be daunting to get up. That said, everyone living within our community has a responsibility to be respectful of others’ rights and property.

As we read this, homeless continue living in squalor outdoors. Crime and assault are not uncommon in these encampments. Nighttime is particularly dangerous.

Many politicians will say that everyone can be housed, but they never say at what cost to you. Ever-higher property taxes are already causing financial harm to many. If we did accomplish this, would more homeless move here for the free housing?

Would a designated outdoor, overnight-use-only campsite(s) at locations that the public has collectively agreed to be the most humane solution? With on-site security, hot/cold water, toilets and perhaps even portable showers? Should outdoor camping occurring in other non-approved areas then be prohibited? ‘In Our First 90 Days’ together, we will find the fairest and most compassionate plan that can resolve how best to move forward on this issue.

On our local economy, politicians selectively choosing which laws to uphold are not helping it. Is bringing in ‘federal money’ to ‘fight crime’ needed when the U.S. continues sinking further into debt? Most politicians do not seem to care what we will leave the next generation, but most citizens do. Ramsey County and St. Paul should be able to uphold law and order themselves.

Union Depot and the West Publishing site are both county properties. 1. Commissioners spent $20 million demolishing the West Publishing site – with no development contracts in place. Together, we’ll take the decade-long debacle and create an exciting, viable plan for the best vacant riverfront site in America. 2. Commissioners spent $250 million renovating Union Depot. Since 2012, millions have been lost annually. Together, we’ll take our greatly underutilized historic train station and its grand site and viably create the best collection of railroad and riverboat history attractions in America.

Final thoughts?

RO:I am honored to be your commissioner and I appreciate the Community Reporter and the residents who have volunteered time and energy to the West Seventh community. Please stay in touch and get your friends and family to vote, no matter who they vote for.

BH: 
This year marks the 32nd year that I have been self-employed as an architectural illustrator and 29th year as a downtown gallery and frame-shop owner. In 2016, I designed and built a small music venue (recently reopened) and most recently, I’ve created a special place downtown on the skyway level in US Bank Center for those 55 and more to gather. I am a native of St. Paul, and while I do not have great financial wealth, I’ve had a great life and like many of you, I’ve also had some struggles along the way. Each day I give thanks for what I have.  

I assure those who have become disheartened and disappointed by local politics and the direction of our county and city that things can be much better quite easily. Local leaders are reacting, not anticipating. Authentic public outreach remains a low priority. These behaviors will end if I am elected. Weekly, my staff and I will have an in-person and live-streamed ‘People and Press Conference’. No one’s going to feel left out anymore. It’s just a matter of you voting and those you know voting for Bill Hosko this fall. 

Perhaps you may align with the Democratic party, or Republican, or you lean Green Party, or Libertarian. At the local level, in this race, with the ongoing issues we face, I am 100% independent and nonpartisan. I am not backed by special interests nor the establishment that glosses things over, keeps us divided and wants things to stay the same. I will be a public servant in the highest sense – you have my word on it. 

Lastly, if I am elected, events that used to bring us together and create good will: Taste of Minnesota, July 4th Capitol Mall Fireworks, Grand Old Days and Cinco De Mayo (among others) will be restored – along with their original authenticity. I care about you and your quality of life here in Ramsey County and St. Paul. Let’s get back onto a higher track, folks, where the air is much fresher and clearer. Together, we can do it. Thank you.

State Congress

Please provide a brief biography and describe your knowledge of the district.

State Congressional District 64A: Dan Walsh Republican, walsh4stpaul.com:

I was born and raised in St. Paul and attended Nativity Grade School and Cretin High School. I have worked in technology my whole career, the last 20 years in cybersecurity, and also am a licensed Minnesota real estate broker. My knowledge is deep having lived here my whole life. My interest is in saving St. Paul from a trajectory that currently has it competing with Chicago and LA as a declining city.

Dave Pinto, Incumbent—Democrat, District 64B:

I grew up in the St. Paul suburbs, attended public schools and received graduate degrees in law and business. Since 2014, I’ve represented the southwest part of St. Paul in the Minnesota House. I serve as a prosecutor of domestic and sexual violence; for several years, I directed training and protocol development for Minnesota’s system for responding to the sexual exploitation of young people. My work has been recognized by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, Council of State Governments, Ramsey County Bar Association, Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, and League of Minnesota Cities. My wife Abby and I are longtime residents of the area, with kids in the public schools.

María Isa Pérez-Hedges, Democrat 65B 

I am a lifelong West Sider, cultural community organizer, international recording artist and youth worker.

I direct the mentorship program for the Twin Cities Mobile Jazz Project, which empowers young people through music and a cultural curriculum at several Twin Cities recreation centers, including El Rio Vista. As a Type 1 diabetic and insulin organizer, I have been a prominent leader in the fight for affordable health care in Minnesota. In April 2020, I played an integral role in advocating for the passage of the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, and I continue my leadership within the Minnesota #Insulin4all Chapter.

I am an alumna of the Wilder Foundation Community Equity Program, and for my work with Youthrive Live!, educating incarcerated youth throughout Minnesota, I received the National Hispana Leadership Institute’s “Rising Latina Star” award.

Briefly explain the key issues that are part of your district that you hope to tackle and specifically how you aim to do so. 

Dan Walsh: There are many, but the most important is public safety. For the last 50 years St. Paul has been represented by one party, and with the move of that party to extreme progressive policies it has left the city in a horrible place. I have see no accountability from the leaders who put it in that condition, just their continued support of a progressive narrative that is being exposed on every level. There are remedies and strategies to solve the crime problem. Because the current leadership has taken an approach to abdicate versus attack the problem, it has escalated out of control. What is needed is the political will to solve it and the Democrats certainly haven’t not shown they are willing to do that.

Dave Pinto: In my time at the Capitol, I’ve found that legislators are most effective when they are focused. I’ve focused on two broad areas. The first is young children and their families. As chair of the House Early Childhood Committee, I oversee policy relating to child care and early learning, with a strong connection to prenatal care and child development too.There’s no better investment for society than getting young children off to a great start (and supporting parents who need to work to pay the rent, and employers who want to hire those parents too).

The other area of focus for me, is ensuring everyone is safe in our community. I’m the longtime House leader of efforts to reduce gun violence and the author of the bill for criminal background checks. I’m proud of House majority efforts, including investments in both policing and community violence prevention; regulatory and other changes to fight catalytic converter theft; and reforms to provide greater accountability for the criminal legal system. It’s frustrating that the Republican-controlled Senate resisted all of this (and investments in early childhood and other areas). If reelected, I’ll keep pushing to meet the needs of our community and state.   

Pérez-Hedges: Core focuses of our campaign include healthcare access, housing justice, educational equity, and developing a healthy, green, regenerative economy. There are over 250,000 Minnesotans without health insurance and over 1 million more who can’t afford their medical bills due to co-payments, deductibles and insurance lapses. Meanwhile, home values have skyrocketed, and Minnesota is losing 2000 affordable rental units every year; this disaster is particularly impactful in renter-heavy districts such as 65B. And while we must be building pathways for our young people to break through these cycles through equitable education and career opportunities, students of color and low-income students are falling further and further behind.

We must stop separating these challenges into buckets, as though they were not fundamentally and permanently linked, or “braided.” For example, conversations about school buildings must center the mental health crisis facing our students, as well as solarization and other electrification opportunities in our school communities. Conversations about housing must consider the financial implications on families with students, as well as access to quality clinics and hospitals. As new legislators, we can bring with us the voices of community and offer a unified vision of holistically healthy and thriving neighborhoods.

How will you use your position to ensure your constituents are given access to a high quality of life?

Dan Walsh: I will change the rhetoric towards policing and how you talk about police, work with them on change, not force change on them and enforce and keep people in jail who have violated our laws. It is that simple. There are historical challenges that present work to be done, but with the leaders today attacking front liners and passing laws that don’t protect constituents, I am curious why anyone would want that because it does not provide a high quality of life. Simply ask yourself, are you better off today than you were four years ago?

Dave Pinto: My campaign, and my legislative work, is about ensuring that everyone in our state has the opportunity to thrive. That means the great start for kids and safety for everyone(see above). It also means full funding for public K-12 education and robust post-secondary opportunities leading to decent jobs. It means affordable, accessible health care; a safe, stable and affordable place to live; and clean, healthy air, water and natural places. It means the robust protection of individual rights, including reproductive rights. And it means racial and gender justice – so that every person in our state can be their complete and authentic selves as full participants in our society and in our democracy. When people in our state have access to these things, it enhances the quality of life of all of us. 

Pérez-Hedges: Our communities across the district have been generating new creative and cultural initiatives, educating on our histories from outside of the traditional classroom environment and advocating for appropriate and vital investment at all levels of government, not just from the state. I think about the tangible impacts of the West Side Boosters organization, our #Insulinforall chapter and the efforts of so many other leaders and mentors who maintain hope and investment in the next generation.

In office, we will be advocating for budgets that magnify local leadership efforts and empower those that have made St. Paul and West St. Paul places where people of color, immigrants and working families can build bridges and ladders, in celebration and movement.

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Community Reporter did not receive responses from the following candidates, but links to their websites are provided below, with the exception of Lorraine Englund(64B), who did not have a website listed on the Minnesota Secretary of State Website.

Kaohly Vang Her, Incumbent—Democrat, 64A, herforhouse.com

Kevin Fjelsted, Republican 65B, kf4hr65b.com

Erin Murphy, Incumbent—Democrat, Senate District 64, murphyfor64.com         

Robert Bushard,Republican Senate District 64, bushard4sd64.wpcomstaging.com

Sandy Pappas, Incumbent—Democrat, Senate District 65, sandypappas.com

Paul Holmgren, Republican, Senate District 65, citizenstoelectpaulholmgren.com

Betty McCollum, Incumbent—Democrat, U.S. Congressional District 4, mccollumforcongress.com.

May Lor Xiong, Republican, U.S. Congressional District 4, may4mn.com.

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