Former MSA

Coralie Carlson

Former Minnesota Student Association vice president Eric Hanson said he wants to move his political career from Coffman Union to the state Capitol.
The senior in organizational communications announced he would run as an Independent candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 59B, which encompasses the Superblock and Sanford Hall on the Minneapolis campus.
But before Hanson can officially enter the race, he must collect 500 signatures to earn a space on the ballot. Hanson and his campaign staff will start their signature drive on Northrop Mall this week.
“If people just like you number 30,000, then by golly you should carry a district,” Hanson said in a Friday interview in which he declared his candidacy.
During his tenure in the student association, Hanson honed his skills at mediating conflicting viewpoints on campus. Now the 23-year-old wants to represent those clashing groups and ideas at the Legislature.
Hanson will face incumbent Democrat Phyllis Kahn, and Republican candidate Robert Fowler, who earlier this month completed his second year at the University Law School.
Hanson said he wants to increase representation by being more responsive to constituents that he argues are sometimes overlooked, like students and blue-collar workers.
“It’s making a voice for the waiters of society and the students,” said Hanson, who waits tables himself.
His campaign staff will hold weekly meetings for voters to voice their concerns, a practice he said would continue during the legislative session if elected. He also envisions e-mail terminals at libraries to give constituents an opportunity to stay in closer contact with elected officials.
While shying away from party affiliation, Hanson described himself as fiscally conservative and socially responsive.
“I don’t have a lot of hard lines of what I think should be done,” Hanson explained, adding that he takes his cues from the electorate.
“I’m trying to keep an open mind, but some people confuse that with being stupid,” Hanson said.
Hanson admitted that his open mind strategy makes his platform look bare, saying, “It might be, it’s just not full of issues.”
But as a fourth generation University student, Hanson does take a pro-education stance and pledged to fight for the school’s share of the state budget next year.
Hanson tracked higher education legislation at the state Capitol for two years for the student association. There he saw the internal workings of the legislative process.
He claimed Kahn, 61, increased efficiency in that process.
“Efficiency is a good thing in a lot of ways, but I don’t think it’s a good thing in government,” Hanson said.
Kahn, now serving her 26th year in the House, welcomed the new challenger and agreed that she is an efficient legislator.
Fowler, the 24-year-old Republican candidate, was surprised that another University student joined the race.
“I think it’s great that someone else from the University is running,” Fowler said, “but he has a lot of catching up to do.”
Fowler and Hanson have rough roads ahead of them; Kahn traditionally takes the district by a landslide. She trampled over her student opponents in the last two elections, pulling more than 60 percent of the vote.
Hanson said if he doesn’t win in November, he will be setting the stage for the next election and sending out the message that students do vote.
Campaign manager and College of Liberal Arts senior, Aaron Kohlhoff, remains hopeful.
“I don’t know what Vegas is putting our odds at now, but I think we have a chance,” he said.