Phyllis Kahn, opponents face off in community forum

Megan Boldt

University area Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, doesn’t just have competition from the Republican Party this election season.
Kahn faces DFL opponent Brian Biele in the Sept. 12 primary. The winner will square off with Republican candidate and University student Ben Bowman in the November election.
To increase voter awareness of this race, the three candidates answered questions at a community forum at Van Cleve Community Center Wednesday night.
Candidates discussed education, affordable housing, health care and public financing of sports stadiums.
They also talked briefly about service to University students and staff.
Kahn said she would take on whatever issues arise and continue to support state funding for the University.
Biele, a 28-year-old community lobbyist, said his focus would be to make sure the University’s tuition increases at the rate of inflation, not higher than it. He said he would also like faculty salaries to be competitive with the rest of the nation.
Bowman, a former Minnesota Student Association president, said he would serve the University by obtaining a spot on the House higher education committee. He said the district has gone too long without a presence on the committee.
Some other issues spurred heated debate, especially between Kahn and Biele, but overall the candidates said they felt good after the meeting.
Biele said while he admires Kahn’s 28 years of service, it’s time for someone to step up and address the district’s issues.
“She is no longer able to deliver what the district needs,” he said, pointing out he has picked up endorsements from organizations that formerly endorsed Kahn.
Kahn said she is running on a strong public service record. She said she respects both Biele and Bowman for running for office, but said the issues are more difficult than they think.
“They’re ambitious, but they lack legislative knowledge,” she said.
The forum, sponsored by the Como Resource Center, was held to allow citizens to compare candidates and ask them questions, said organizer Jennifer Gisslen Lee.
She said she was very pleased with the turnout of about 60 people.
“We wanted to bring some profile to the primary and also the general election,” Lee said. “This shows if you take the time and effort, people show up.”

Megan Boldt covers politics and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3235.