Two major parties vie to represent Northern Dakota County at state Capitol

By Dale Mischke

The party in control of the Minnesota Senate and House hangs in the balance this November 3. All of the 67 Senate and 134 House seats are up for election, and while the DFL has a 75-59 seat majority in the House, the Republicans hold a 35-32 seat majority in the Senate.

The three seats in District 52 in the Northern Dakota County cities of Mendota, Mendota Heights, Lilydale, West Saint Paul, Sunfish Lake and Inver Grove Heights are all occupied by DFLers, including first-term Senator Matt Klein, who is seeking re-election against Republican Tomas Settell.

Senate District 52

Klein, 52, a physician, is married and the father of five children. A former member of the District 197 School Board, he earned a B.S. in zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received his degree in medicine at Mayo Medical School. If re-elected, Klein said, “I’ll continue to work for affordable quality health care for all, clean air and water, justice in our communities and a visionary public education system.”

“Over the last four years, I’ve offered my perspective as a practicing physician on a broad range of issues, from regulating drug prices to gun violence,” Klein said. “With the outbreak of COVID-19, I’ve worked to balance our public and economic health. We must take this opportunity to modernize our health care delivery system so that it’s affordable and accessible to all and rewards quality care and not the number of hospital beds filled.”

Settell could not be reached for comment, but on his website he describes himself as a single father of one and a small-business owner who is employed as a gymnastics coach and a coach of “integrative and functional health.” He also serves as a volunteer in the Civil Air Patrol.

House District 52A

Eight-term DFL incumbent Rick Hansen is being challenged by Republican Mariah de la Paz.

A divorced mother of four, grandmother of 11 and great-grandmother of two, de la Paz, 61, works at the Benedictine Health Center of Minneapolis. She is a graduate of Metropolitan State University with a B.A. in human services and has worked in community corrections, with children at risk, with women experiencing domestic violence and in senior health care.

“As a Hispanic Republican woman, I don’t have representation at the Capitol that supports my values of faith, family and freedom,” de la Paz said. “I’m tired of the Democrats’ status quo that only serves the liberal communities’ agendas. I want to help people be productive to reach their potential for growth, prosperity and ownership. We need affordable housing and retail competition that meets the need of local consumers instead of going to other cities, which takes away from our economy here. 

“My top priority in the Legislature will be to look at policies that need reform,” de la Paz said. “This would include DHS, child protection services and the criminal justice system. I would establish an oversight committee and break them up into smaller entities. I also want to offer families a choice of where they send their children to school.”

Hansen, 57, a small-business owner, is married and the father of one child. A former state agency supervisor, he earned a B.S. in biology at Upper Iowa University and an M.S. in soil management at Iowa State University.

“We’re in challenging times with an unprecedented pandemic, increasing inequality and economic downturn,” Hansen said. “I have experience in local and state government and small business. My knowledge, skills and abilities provide for effective and innovative problem solving. Creativity and commitment will be needed, and I’ve demonstrated these skills in passing groundbreaking legislation in the House.

“We need to contain the coronavirus to grow the economy, provide high quality education and achieve a better environment,” Hansen said.  “In the coming session, I’ll support basic infrastructure improvements and investing in scientific research for health care, the environment and a better quality of life.”

House District 52B

First-term DFL incumbent Ruth Richardson is facing Republican Cynthia Lonnquist in the general election.

A musician by trade and a college graduate, Lonnquist, 62, is single and the mother of one child.

“Minnesota is known as one of the worst places to do business in the country and one of the worst places to retire because of our unfavorable tax climate,” Lonnquist said. “I want Minnesota to become one of the best places to do business and one of the best places to retire. My background is in technology sales, including owning my own business. That’s the experience I’ll bring to the Capitol. Post-COVID-19, we can’t afford to be driving businesses and residents out of Minnesota.”  

Reviving Minnesota’s economy is one of Lonnquist’s top priorities. “Business has contracted, and government needs to respond in kind,” she said. “I’ll prioritize most essential services and work with agencies to identify areas to trim, postpone or eliminate.”

Richardson, 44, a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a B.A. degree in sociology, earned her juris doctorate at William Mitchell College of Law. Single and the mother of two, she is a former senior director of National Strategic Initiatives and is currently employed as a CEO.

“I have a commitment to public service that was instilled in me as a child,” Richardson said. “I ran for office to build a state where everyone has the opportunity to prosper and reach their full potential. I’m a professional problem solver. I’ve held senior leadership positions in the private, nonprofit and government sectors and have experience solving complex problems. In my first term I worked across the aisle to get 16 provisions signed into law.

“The response to COVID-19 will remain a priority for me,” Richardson said. “The pandemic has shined a light on a number of challenges and inequities facing Black, indigenous and (other) people of color. Our schools and small businesses have been impacted. The impacts are not evenly distributed, so a key priority is ensuring we’re supporting those who are most impacted.”


The Villager welcomes comments from readers. Please include your full name and the neighborhood in which you live. Be respectful of others and stay on topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment we deem to be profane, rude, insulting or hateful. Comments will be reviewed before being published.

Leave a Reply