Voters chose change in 2017 elections
By Satta Kendor
It is not surprising that Minnesotans chose change this past election.
With the strong field of activist candidates this year, the advent of radical change was foreshadowed in highly contested primaries in August. St. Paul elected Melvin Carter – the city’s first African-American mayor, and the Minneapolis voters elected two transgender persons to City Council. Change is an understatement.
Andrea Jenkins, the first openly transgender African-American woman elected into public office in the U.S. won the 8th Ward seat on the Minneapolis City Council. Phillippe Cunningham, one of the first openly transgender men elected into public office in the U.S., won the Minneapolis 4th Ward seat after second and third choice votes were counted. This means two of the 13 seats on the Minneapolis City Council will be held by transgender persons.
Cunningham, a former staffer to Mayor Betsy Hodges, ousted incumbent Bara Johnson who has served on the council since 1997. Cunningham beat Johnson in the Ward 4 contest by a margin of fewer than 200 votes.
Cunningham vowed during his campaign to improve the Northside by improving home ownership rates, growing small businesses and using the diversity of Ward 4 to grow the community.
During her campaign, Jenkins vowed to improve equity in public safety, addressing the relationship with young Black men and law enforcement, equity in affordable housing and equity in transportation, among others.
Kale Severson, born and raised in North Minneapolis and longtime North Community High School coach won the 2nd District seat for the Minneapolis Park Board.
“We didn’t do this alone. We had many people working on our campaign that gave lots of hours and worked their butts off,” said Severson.
Severson campaigned to improve infrastructure in recreational centers, growing relationships with Minneapolis Public Schools to ensure North Minneapolis kids are included in programming, and having a diverse staff of people who want to live and work in the community, among others.
“Of course I’m going to learn more as we go along but these are core values,” said Severson. “That’s what they elected us on. So that’s definitely something that we will continue to work on along with violence prevention programs for our parks.”
Londel French and LaTrisha Vetaw are two of three newly elected at-large representatives on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Meg Forney, an at-large representative on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board since 2013, won her second term during the general elections.
“I feel good about it, I’m excited that I won.” said Vetaw.