Former MSA president fights for position as state representative

Erin Ghere

Former Minnesota Student Association president Ben Bowman will run against state Rep. Phyllis Kahn in November to represent part of the University community.
Bowman was endorsed by Republican leaders in district 59B, said Randy Skoglund, state Republican Party deputy executive director. The district includes the University’s East Bank, and about half of its residents are students.
The 21-year-old University student will most likely challenge Kahn, a 28-year state House of Representatives veteran, in the Nov. 7 elections. Kahn must win the Sept. 12 DFL primary to be on the ballot in the general election.
In an area with a primarily democratic history, Bowman said he hopes voters will look past his party and instead focus on his issues.
“I’m not very partisan,” he said. “I am a student and I care about student issues. They’re not Democratic or Republican student issues, they’re just student issues.”
But Kahn said with such a liberal voting population, it will be hard for a Republican candidate to prevail. The district is pro-choice, pro-women and pro-environment, she said, positions which tend to counter the Republican Party’s values.
Kahn said some opponents say she’s been in her seat too long, but she thinks it makes her a better legislator.
“I’m proud to run on my record and my experience,” she said.
But she said she hopes Bowman’s close ties to the University will result in more on-campus debates and campaign events than in past elections.
Bowman said he would welcome the opportunity to debate. One of his biggest problems with Kahn, he said, is her absence on the House’s Higher Education Finance Committee.
Kahn served on the higher education committee several years ago.
State Rep. Peggy Leppik, R-Golden Valley, said with Kahn’s seniority she could most likely get on the committee again if she wanted. Leppik is the higher education committee chairwoman.
Through his role as a student, Bowman said he can represent students better than Kahn.
Two ways he plans to do so are by sitting on the higher education committee and by fighting for students’ rights to receive state tax rebates.
Bowman is originally from Rochester, Minn., and will graduate next spring with a degree in entrepreneurship from the Carlson School of Management.
In addition to having a minor in political science, Bowman was a member of MSA for three years and the assistant to Rep. Fran Bradley, R-Rochester, for two years.
Bowman is following in the footsteps of other University students who have challenged Kahn during her nearly three-decade term, including third-year law student Robert Fowler and 24-year-old mass communications senior Eric Hanson in 1998.
Kahn won the election with about 60 percent of the vote, while Fowler pulled in 27 percent and Hanson garnered 12 percent.
Kahn, a former University research staff member, served on the commerce and state government finance committees during the 2000 session.

Erin Ghere welcomes comments at [email protected]