DFL partisans will head to the polls on August 9 to choose among three candidates for the Minnesota Senate in District 65. Sheigh Freeberg and Zuki Ellis are challenging incumbent Senator Sandy Pappas’ bid for another four-year term.

District 65 includes the West Side and downtown Saint Paul, the North End, Frogtown, and parts of the West End, Lexington-Hamline, Summit-University and Hamline-Midway (see map below).

MyVillager asked the candidates about their qualifications for the Senate and their positions on promoting safe and affordable housing, turning back the rising incidence of crime and whether or not to amend Minnesota’s abortion laws given the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Pappas, 73, a resident of downtown, has served for 32 years in the Minnesota Senate and six years in the Minnesota House before that. A graduate of Metropolitan State University, she has a master’s degree in public administration from the JFK School at Harvard University and taught political science at Metro State for 20 years.

If reelected, Pappas said, “I’ll advocate for more state money going into building affordable housing and shelters. I also support construction or conversion to advance more housing options, including manufactured housing, tiny homes and single-room occupancy apartments.

“Guns are too easily available,” Pappas said. “Common-sense gun safety means passing red flag laws, closing loopholes in background checks, and restricting gun sales to people age 21 and older.” Pappas said she would also like to see more programs and job opportunities for youths as a way to prevent crime. “The state can also provide more Local Government Aid to Saint Paul so the city can hire more police officers and mental health social workers,” she said.

“I’m pro-choice and I believe that women should be able to control their own bodies,” Pappas said. “We have a privacy clause in our state constitution that courts have determined protect a women’s right to choose. I also support the repeal of a number of abortion restrictions.”

Freeberg, 34, a Hamline-Midway resident, is a graduate of the University of Kansas who is employed as secretary-treasurer of Unite Here Local 17, a labor union that represents more than 6,000 workers in the hospitality industry. “I’ve helped hundreds of people unionize their workplaces,” Freeberg said. “I’ve also campaigned for a $15 minimum wage, sick and safe time and rent stabilization.

“Nearly 60 percent of the residents of District 65 are renters,” Freeberg said. “Rising housing costs are not going away, and gentrification and displacement disproportionately impact BIPOC people. (To promote safe and affordable housing) I’d start with a statewide renters’ rights bill, which would include a tenant’s right to purchase. We should invest state money in public housing that can directly compete with private landlords. Let’s allow for accessory dwelling units and better zoning to create higher-density cities.”

Freeberg said he supports “a community-oriented vision of public safety. This includes a robust department of public safety with mental health professionals, community outreach, trained de-escalation specialists and uniformed police officers. Public safety isn’t just about the police or criminal justice system. It’s also about making sure everyone has a home, mental health supports, fully funded schools and enough food at home. After-school programs, youth outreach and mentorships will help ensure our kids have a bright future and a reason to stay out of trouble.

“Reproductive choice is a fundamental human right,” Freeberg said. “Our state constitution protects the right to choose, but we need to do everything we can to help people in states that don’t have a right to choose. Minnesota needs to protect people who travel here to have abortions.”

Ellis did not respond to MyVillager‘s candidate’s questionnaire. A resident of Frogtown, she graduated from Metropolitan State University with a double major in social science and ethnic studies and has been a member of the Saint Paul School Board since 2016. Ellis has also been employed as a trainer for school teachers, staff and administrators and as a parent trainer for the National Parent Teacher Home Visit organization.

The top vote-getter in the DFL primary will face Republican Paul Holmgren of Frogtown in the November 8 general election.

House Districts 65A & 65B
The map above left shows the new boundaries of Senate District 65 following redistricting after the 2020 Census. The border between House Districts 65A and 65B runs south along I-35E to University Avenue, then west to Rice Street and south to John Ireland and Kellogg boulevards.

— Dale Mischke


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