House candidates aim to get out the vote in St. Paul

by Lee VandenBusch

For voters around the state there are two very common concerns: education and health care.

Voters in the districts that include the St. Paul campus and surrounding area to the north are no different.

“No question, education is the top issue in my area,” said state Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville.

House District 54A

The House race in District 54A, just north of the St. Paul campus and home to a number of University commuters,

looks to be contentious. Republican Bryan Graham of Roseville is vying for Greiling’s seat, which she has held since 1992.

Greiling is a former teacher, worked at the University in child cancer studies and was also a member of her local school board.

Greiling said she’s concerned with education, especially at the secondary level.

“Higher ed especially is the least-supported by state officials (now) then at any time in state history,” she said.

Greiling said she also worries about tuition. She said that in the end, high tuition will drive people away and

that higher education should be more accessible to everyone.

Graham is a political newcomer. He worked on the campaign for his mother, Terry Graham, for the same House seat he’s now running for. He said he’s running partly because of the voter reaction from the community.

“We had a lot of people tell us that their values weren’t being represented by the current incumbent,” Graham said.

He said he’s concerned about education as well, but said more spending isn’t the answer. Current funding is adequate, he said, but needs to be spent in better ways.

“People don’t understand where the money is going,” Graham said.

Eric Ostermeier, a research assistant for the Humphrey Institute, said past races show the incumbent has the advantage, but the race will still be close.

“In general, it seems it’s been a five- to 15-point victory in 54A (for the incumbent),” Ostermeier said.

House District 66B

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, represents District 66B, which includes the St. Paul campus and many neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity. Hausman has represented the area since 1990.

She came to Minnesota in 1977 and was a hospital manager at United and Children’s hospitals in St. Paul and an elementary school teacher.

As a legislator, she has worked closely on many issues that affect students, including funding for the University.

“We have cut higher ed so dramatically,” she said. “As a result, tuition goes up. The affordability of higher education for the average Minnesotan, I think, is a real concern.”

Hausman is in favor of getting tuition to a reasonable level.

“We just have to do more at the state level to support our state colleges and universities,” she said.

Hausman said transportation is another important issue. She said she was proud to have been the author of both the Hiawatha and Central corridor light rail initiatives, the latter of which would connect downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, with stops at the University.

“When I leave my job here, I really believe I will have been part of finally building a comprehensive, public mass-transit system,” she said.

Republican Joyce Nevins is Hausman’s challenger in the race. Nevins states on her Web site that Minnesota educational and health care systems need to be overhauled. Her site says she is also in favor of tax reduction and smarter spending.

Nevins did not return calls or e-mails for this story.

Hausman said she believes the race has gone well so far. Ostermeier said the DFL incumbent has little to worry about.

“In 66B, in past elections, there have been several blowouts, actually,” Ostermeier said. “In each of the last four elections, nearly 70 percent in 66B went for the DFL.”