Representing the other half

Students this year have a rare opportunity to substantially change the Minnesota political landscape.

by Abby Bar-Lev

This fall, students at the University have a rare opportunity to vote three progressive, Democratic women into office and achieve a step toward better gender balance in our government. The positions include the newly vacated U.S. House seat in the 5th District, governor and U.S. Senate.

U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, who serves Minnesota’s 5th District, which includes the University, recently announced he will not be seeking re-election. That means that in the 2006 election students will have a real opportunity to make a difference in government. According to the Star Tribune, “By the end of Thursday, 11 DFLers had either entered the race or said they planned to.”

There already are several female Democrats officially in the race for Sabo’s seat: Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman of St. Louis Park, business executive Anne Knapp, former Department of Trade and Economic Development Commissioner Rebecca Yanisch and former state Sen. Ember Junge.

Commissioner Dorfman touts her walk-the-walk experiences as Hennepin County commissioner in which she serves urban and suburban communities and has fought for mental health reform and ending homelessness through an affordable housing initiative. Business executive Knapp said that along with being an advocate for workers, she will work for “international issues, the environment, health care, fiscal responsibility, human rights and education.” Former state Sen. Ember Junge explained why she wants to enter the race: “I want to reignite the agenda that hasn’t been heard: access to health care, affordable child care, investment in youngest children, good paying jobs, protecting human rights, bringing peace to Iraq and rebuilding U.S. credibility around the world.” There are also other women still considering entering the race.

As for the executive facet of Minnesota government, state Sen. Becky Lourey is worlds apart from Gov. Tim Pawlenty – an aspect that works very much to her favor. Lourey is not only a legislator but also a farmer, business owner and mother of 12 children. She believes it “is time for Minnesotans to elect a Governor that not only understands their needs and challenges but has demonstrated through a lifetime of work a commitment to improving the lives of everyone – especially those most in need.” During his state of the state address in which Pawlenty made clear his opposition to gay marriage and abortion, Lourey, along with two other state DFLers, rose and turned her back to the governor. Pawlenty also offered shallow proposals to improve public education, to which Lourey responded, “The damage done to our schools and accessible health care cannot be repaired by the empty proposals put forward by this governor.”

Beyond disagreeing with Pawlenty, Lourey has proved herself to be progressive and courageous. In 2005, Lourey lost her son to the war in Iraq. He was piloting an Army helicopter that was shot down. The state legislature recently passed a bill by a 58-1 vote that bans protesting and picketing at military funerals or memorial services. That one vote against it came from Lourey. “He always said that freedom of speech, our Bill of Rights, our way of life – that’s what he wanted to protect,” said Lourey of her lost son, “I believe that the Bill of Rights is a list of items that governmental bodies should not interfere with.” That conviction, especially in the light of her tragedy, proves Lourey to be a candidate worthy of DFL endorsement and even more worthy of votes come November.

Another name deserving of votes in November is that of Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, who is running for U.S Senate. I laid out in a previous column reasons why students should support Klobuchar. The Pioneer Press called Klobuchar “the front-runner for the DFL nomination,” after receiving an overwhelming 77 percent of support from the March precinct caucuses, according to straw polls. Klobuchar will “bring Minnesota values of hard work, fair play and responsibility to Washington and fight for a clear-cut agenda focused on health-care reform, energy independence, tax fairness and economic and international security.”

As Glenda Holste eloquently wrote in the Pioneer Press, ” Ö if you believe in a democracy with political leadership that benefits from looking more like America, voting for qualified women is a way to act on that belief.” After all, only two women have been elected to the U.S. Congress from Minnesota through all of its progressive history. As students with a unique opportunity to have a particular impact in the state’s politics with the opening of the 5th District’s seat, we owe it to ourselves to ensure we are well represented in the U.S. Congress and in the governorship. We need to embrace our progressive, Democratic women running for office and vote them into office this November.

Abby Bar-Lev welcomes comments at [email protected]

The Legal Ledger, March 13, 2006, Charley Shaw

Duluth News Tribune, March 10, 2006, Bill Salisbury

Saint Paul Pioneer Press, March 24, 2006; Duluth News Tribune, March 17, 2006, Patrick Sweeney;

Grand Forks Herald, March 17, 2006, Associated Press;

Pioneer Press, March 24, 2006, Glenda Holste;

Business Wire, March 24, 2006;

Star Tribune, March 24, 2006, Rochelle Olson;

Star Tribune, March 9, 2006, Dane Smith and Patricia Lopez