Raymond Dehn is 59 years old and will still be paying student loans well into his 60s.
The mayoral candidate, a DFL state representative for parts of Minneapolis, graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1993 with an architecture degree and started paying his loans in 2002.
It’s part of what shaped him as a politician. Before he graduated, he was convicted of a felony burglary charge and was later pardoned by Gov. Al Quie in 1982.
The pardon hangs on the wall of his office in the State Office Building in St. Paul, where he’s serving his third term. He said it serves as a reminder that he may not have been so lucky in other circumstances.
“That’s what was a motivating factor for me to really try to change a system,” Dehn said. “It is very structured against a lot of people in our society, primarily people of color and indigenous folks.”
Throughout his time at the Capitol, Dehn said he’s focused on affordable housing and policing in Minneapolis. He serves on a public safety committee and passed a 2014 bonding bill to help developers build low-cost housing, he said.
He said he should be elected Minneapolis’ mayor because the city is at crucial point and can do better, especially in areas of equity, affordable housing and policing.
Dehn said his connections at the Capitol would be important for Minneapolis moving forward.
“Talking to former colleagues when the city has to ask for something from the state or fight back from something the state is trying to do, I think that would be a huge advantage to the city of Minneapolis,” Dehn said.
During his time at the Capitol, Dehn has worked closely with Rep. Fue Lee, DFL-Minneapolis, who represents District 59A. Dehn represents District 59B.
“I often reach out to [Dehn] for his advice on certain issues or certain projects … just to get his thoughts on how it might affect Minneapolis and the rest of the state,” Lee said.
Dehn has also worked extensively with TakeAction Minnesota, a community group that works to promote racial and economic equality.
TakeAction Minnesota hasn’t made any mayoral endorsements. The group is working with Dehn on a voting rights bill, said Justin Terrell, the Justice 4 All Program Manager at TakeAction Minnesota.
“He’s definitely shown up and done the work in the community,” Terrell said. “He’s been one of my strongest allies at the Capitol.”
His campaign has University ties, as well. Joelle Stangler, the University’s undergraduate student body president from 2014 to 2016, is Dehn’s campaign manager.
He said his history with student debt is part of why his campaign will connect to the University.
“Education, higher education, these are all things that are critical I think to not only to the success of individuals but to the success of communities,” Dehn said.
As a former architect, Dehn said he has a unique way of looking at the city. He approaches a problem through “strategic and design” thinking, he said.
He said his architectural background and history with the law and student loaDens set him apart from the rest of the Minneapolis mayoral candidates.
The first stage of the election is the precinct caucuses on April 4.