Phyllis Kahn, Democratic-Farmer-Labor incumbent

Phyllis Kahn is a 32-year veteran Democrat.

by Stephanie Kudrle

Although she’s been in the State Legislature for 32 years, Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said she isn’t out of fresh ideas.

When asked if she ever plans to retire, the Democrat laughed.

“I have unfinished business,” she said. “But I take it one election at a time.”

Kahn, who represents the University’s East Bank district, said she hopes the next legislative session will not be “as depressing” as the last one.

Last session, the Legislature adjourned without passing some key bills, including a bonding bill for the University. Kahn said that is unacceptable.

“I think support of the ‘U’ is the most important issue right now,” she said.

If re-elected, Kahn said, she would move to pass the bonding bill immediately after the next session begins. Lack of state support for the University leads to higher tuition and burdens for students, she said.

Kahn was first elected to the Legislature in 1972. She is married, with two children and two grandchildren.

The long-time legislator has multiple degrees, such as a bachelor’s degree in physics from Cornell University, a doctorate in biophysics from Yale University and a master’s of public administration from Harvard University.

Between 1965 and 1974, she was also a research associate at the University of Minnesota in the genetics and cell biology department.

Kahn’s background in science makes her a role model for young women, said Becky Montgomery, president of the board of the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus.

Montgomery said Kahn is a strong supporter of giving women more access to programs in math and science.

“She’s been working to (an) even playing field,” Montgomery said. “I think she’s effective and been great on issues that impact women.”

Experience is an asset in the Legislature, Kahn said, not a drawback. She said she’s in touch with University of Minnesota student needs and her opponents lack experience to get things accomplished.

“I’m proud of both my experience and my record,” Kahn said. “My record has been very positive for the University (of Minnesota) and the community.”

But Tony Richter, vice president of the College Republicans, said Kahn is out of touch with college students’ values.

“It’s time for her to move on,” he said. “We need a fresh face and enthusiasm.”

Kahn said she works for causes important to many students. She said she supports abortion rights and has worked to give women broader access to birth control.

A strong supporter of stem cell research, Kahn said she would like to see the University of Minnesota receive more funding for its work.

And while her opponents keep bringing up her number of years in the Legislature, Kahn said she isn’t worried about feeling old and tired.

“No one ever accused me of not having fresh ideas,” she said.