political candidate
Diane Napper
political candidate
Chris Wright
political candidate
Patricia Torres Ray
political candidate
David Wiester
political candidate
Jim Davnie
political candidate
Emma Greenman
political candidate
Frank Pafko
political candidate
Dennis Schuller

By Dale Mischke

Voters in South Minneapolis’ District 63 will head to the polls on November 3 to choose their representatives in the Minnesota House and Senate. Three candidates are on the ballot in each of Senate District 63 and House Districts 63A and 63B. Here is how they described their personal strengths as candidates and their top priorities for the coming term:

Senate District 63

DFL incumbent Senator Patricia Torres Ray is seeking her fifth term representing District 63 in the southeastern corner of Minneapolis. She is being challenged by Diane Napper of the Republican Party and Chris Wright of the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party.

Napper, 52, a self-employed graphic designer, earned a degree in business administration at American University in Washington, D.C. Married with no children, she said she is running for office “to be a fresh voice at the Capitol. Citizens should be involved in government to think outside the box and help other citizens live better lives through less government, lower taxes, more economic opportunities and more school choice.

“My opponent has been in office too long,” Napper said. “I’m a small-business owner who understands that government regulations are killing small businesses.” Her top priority as senator would be “economic development which strengthens families, improves educational outcomes and helps society as a whole,” she said. “Lower taxes can achieve this, including incentives to create jobs in low-income neighborhoods.”

Wright, 62, an IT technician and former business owner, is cofounder and chair of the Grassroots Party. A graduate of Northwestern Electronics Institute, he is single and the father of one child.

 

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“Cannabis is a guaranteed right,” Wright said. “Article 13, Section 7, of the Minnesota Constitution says, ‘Any person may sell or peddle the products of the farm or garden occupied and cultivated by him without obtaining a license therefore.’ I’m running to restore our rights and reform our laws.

Among Wright’s priorities for the coming term are campaign finance reform, combatting climate change, single-payer health care, a minimum requirement of a master’s degree for teachers, and two-year tuition-free higher education.

Torres Ray, 55, said she is seeking re-election “to bring the voices of people to the Legislature. We need to strengthen the relationships between elected officials and constituents to make sure we implement policies that truly respond to the needs of working families and the most vulnerable.”

Married and mother of two children, Torres Ray earned a bachelor’s degree in urban affairs at the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in public affairs at the U of M’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“I’ve served the state in different capacities for over 25 years,” Torres Ray said. “(If re-elected) my top priority will be to ensure that we address the state’s deficit without making cuts to essential programs that support working families and the most vulnerable people.”

House District 63A

DFL incumbent Jim Davnie, in his bid for an 11th term, is being challenged by David Wiester of the Legal Marijuana Now Party. Republican Penny Arcos will also appear on the ballot, but she said she has withdrawn from the race.

Wiester, 49, a surgical support specialist, earned a certificate as a nursing assistant from Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Married with no children, he said he is running “to increase exposure for the Legal Marijuana Now Party. The incumbent, Jim Davnie, is doing just fine in the day-to-day duties of a legislator. The purpose of my campaign is to push certain issues into the public discussion.”

Among Wiester’s priorities for the coming term are improving conditions for the poor and people of color, raising the minimum wage, removing obstacles to building affordable housing, aggressively prosecuting police brutality, increasing funding for public defenders to reduce wrongful convictions and ending the war on drugs.”

Davnie, 61, a former teacher and the executive of a small nonprofit organization, graduated from the University of Minnesota where he also earned master’s degrees in education and public affairs. Married and the father of two children, he said he is running to “continue my legislative leadership in challenging times. I’m experienced in working with our community, carrying our values and getting things done for our community and the state.”

If re-elected, Davnie said his top priority will be “to challenge the number of places where racial disparities create inequities in education, opportunity, income, health and other areas of life.”

House District 63B

DFL incumbent Jean Wagenius is stepping down at the end of the year. Hoping to succeed her are Frank Pafko of the Republican Party, Emma Greenman of the DFL Party and Dennis Schuller of the Legal Marijuana Now Party.

Pafko, 67, a former manager and biologist in the state departments of Transportation and Natural Resources, is now retired. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he is married and the father of two and grandfather of six.

“Minneapolis has been governed by the DFL Party for more than half a century,” he said. “They’ve failed to provide public safety, competent schools and a favorable economic climate. They’ve provided burdensome regulations and bloated and wasteful governance. We need a new vision.

“My record from 36 years in state government shows fiscal discipline, including delivering the I-35E/I-694 project for $125 million,” Pafko said. “I’ll work to hold government accountable, crack down on fraud, and reform or eliminate programs that are not fiscally responsible.”

Pafko said his top priority for the coming term is ending Governor Tim Walz’s “tyrannical state of emergency. My first action would be to get the House to vote on the state of emergency, end one-man rule and restore the Legislature’s constitutional responsibility for passing laws and appropriating taxes.”

Greenman, 41, serves as a voting rights attorney at the Center for Public Democracy. Single with no children, she is a graduate of George Washington University, Harvard Kennedy School and the University of California-Berkeley Law School.

“I believe in our power to build a Minnesota where everyone thrives,” Greenman said. “Together, we can build a brighter, more equitable future by taking bold action on climate change, education, racial equity and economic inequality. As a voting rights lawyer and organizer, I’ve spent my career building a multi-racial, multi-generational democracy. As a state representative, I’ll fight for our progressive values and strengthen our democracy.

“To build a Minnesota where everyone thrives, we need structural changes that put kids, families and communities first,” Greenman said. “That starts by repairing and reimagining our democracy to ensure that government works for Minnesotans and not just big corporations or the wealthy few.”

Schuller, 48, a former Richfield planning commissioner now employed as a media producer, attended Normandale Community College and completed a certificate in recording at the former McNally Smith College of Music. “I’m running for office to make a positive difference and change the world for the better,” he said. “I actually don’t like politics, but standing on the sidelines complaining isn’t enough.

“I have a long history in the area and want to speak for local citizens,” Schuller said. “I have experience in government process and am ready to be the public servant that Richfield and South Minneapolis deserve. My top priority is bringing in a referendum process where regular people can petition to have issues placed on the ballot.”

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