A Question of Service

Keith Ellison was the clear favorite among State Representative, House District 58B candidates who visited the Oct. 1 Insight News/KMOJ Public Policy Forum Lucille’s Kitchen. Keith Ellison was the clear favorite among State Representative, House District 58B candidates who visited the Oct. 1 Insight News/KMOJ Public Policy Forum Lucille’s Kitchen. Independent contender Duane Reed, Republican candidate Larissa Presho and the Independence Party’s J. Thomas Lijewski were politely received. However, DFL-endorsed Ellison, a public figure North Minneapolis has long embraced for his visibility as a people’s advocate, had the home field advantage. This was consistently demonstrated by enthusiastic applause and supportive interjections from those in attendance.

Ellison and Reed hope to succeed Randy Staten, Richard Jefferson and Gregory Gray (Incumbent, who did not see re-election because he’s a candidate for a state-wide office), sustaining the predominantly Black district’s historic transition from “old boy” rule to African American representation.

Ellison referred the audience to 15 years of community service, underscoring that, prior to his well-known law practice and as a student activist, he confronted the issue of police accountability, a problem which continues to be a fact of Minneapolis life. This has even recently been seen in the Jordan neighborhood and increasingly threatens to come to an explosive head. He repeatedly compared this and other community oriented highlights, such as co-hosting “Black Power Perspectives” for eight years on KMOJ radio (with guests like Johnnie Cochran and Betty Shabazz) and being a key organizer of local representation in the Million Man March, to his opponents’ absence from the Black leadership front.

“I wonder if any of [them] were at the Million Man March,” he stated. “I was. And I helped draw other brothers into that participation. I heard one of my opponents say there is no business in North Minneapolis. There is business in North Minneapolis. And I’m part of it.” He added, “I have [as an attorney] represented people in this community. Some people recall how I organized attorneys to represent the 14 community activists who were arrested for opposing the housing crisis. I am your brother, your friend and I would submit to you that I know this community better than my opponents do.”

Reed, cited 40 years of community service which he suggested people read about in his campaign literature. Offering such phrases as “Community service is what’s in your heart and not on your block”, he said, “I’m not going to bore you with a lot of stats.” And acknowledging that 58B extends beyond North Minneapolis, he attempted to downplay Ellison’s remarks. His address tended toward emphatic, but vague comments, summarizing, “I pledge to you that I will listen, learn, respect and represent you. Your voice has a choice.”

“I am running”, said Presho, “because I grew up on the Northside. I lived and experienced many of the things that everybody in this community experiences.” She did not delineate, however, what those experiences are beyond having been raised in a single parent household where, as a teenager, she worked to help support her family she said. Presho alluded to a need to bring jobs and business back to North Minneapolis, saying that she had a plan to accomplish this and tackle education and housing issues. She did not specify, however, what her plan is.

Lijewski, a businessman with such holdings as Town Taxi, spoke of his history as an activist, including “the disabled community which I’ve been a part of all my life. I’ve worked on issues for people who have equal rights struggles for my entire life. I come to this campaign equipped with a life of experience entwined to make a better world. I understand what it’s like to work with systems that don’t respond to your particular needs. I’m eager to get a chance to serve you all.”

Ellison rebutted Reed basically to the effect that actions speak more loudly than words. He said:

October 7, 2002
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