The Minnesota Daily sat down with candidates in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District and House District 60B races to discuss issues such as affordable housing and the cost of higher education ahead of the primary election on Aug. 14.
House District 60B
Following Rep. Ilhan Omar’s, DFL-Minneapolis, decision to run for the U.S. House of Representatives, a number of candidates filed to run for her state House seat last minute including University students Joshua Preston and Haaris Pasha. Mohamud Noor, a prominent figure in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood who ran against Omar for the 60B seat in 2016, also filed.
House District 60B includes the University of Minnesota, Augsburg University and the Marcy-Holmes, Prospect Park, Seward, Como and Cedar-Riverside neighborhoods.
To combat the lack of affordable housing and prominence of difficult landlords in student neighborhoods, Noor said he plans to expand co-op student housing to remove landlords from the renting process.
Additionally, he said he wants the state to provide funding for students and low income families in the district — two steady populations likely to remain in the area.
Noor, a former board member of Minneapolis Public Schools, stressed the need for more affordable higher education. While Noor has advocated for PSEO and other college credit opportunities in high school, he said the state needs to play a bigger role in making college affordable.
“Right now I see so many people, like me, who are still paying back their college tuition,” he said. “So we’re excluding many people just because they cannot afford to pay tuition. That’s unacceptable for a state that has a lot of resources.”
Preston said the University, city of Minneapolis and State Legislature need to work together to expand access to public and affordable housing in the district.
To address rising tuition, Preston said the state should increase its higher education allocations despite recent state funding decreases for the University. Increasing funding is one step the state can take to reach a long-term goal of making higher education free for all Minnesotans, he said. Preston also said he wants to better leverage and expand loan forgiveness programs.
“Whether [loan forgiveness] is public service through the government or working for a nonprofit, if you give your time to society, society should give you back a clean slate on which you can make for yourself the life you want,” he said.
Pasha wants the Legislature to provide more protections for renters, which would include passing a renters' Bill of Rights. He would also like to see the state provide increased subsidization for public housing and ensure oversight over private units.
“One of the things that’s happening is that a lot of these low-income housing tax credits are just given to private developers,” he said. “[Private developers] don’t really have public interest in mind.”
To address the cost of higher education, which Pasha called “prohibitively high,” he wants to expand loan forgiveness programs.
Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District
After Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., filed to run for Minnesota attorney general, a slew of candidates filed for his 5th congressional seat including Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis and Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis. Former Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, founder of the DFL Somali Caucus Jamal Abdulahi and Frank Drake, who ran against Ellison as a Republican in 2016, also filed.
Omar won the DFL endorsement at a special endorsement convention in late June.
Sen. Patricia Torres Ray
Torres Ray said immigration policy would be one of her top priorities in Congress. She stressed that immediate actions should be taken to bolster DACA and temporary protected status, or TPS, for immigrants and called for an end to family separation at the border.
A clear pathway to citizenship for immigrants is the only long-term solution to the issue, Torres Ray said, also saying she demonstrated a commitment to these issues and her constituents during her time as state senator.
“People know they can rely on my office to address the issues, and really translate what I call the experience of a constituent into transforming policy,” she said. “That is the value and the ethic that I want to bring to Washington.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar
An immigrant and refugee, Omar believes she can advocate for those with similar experiences in the immigration debate.
Omar supports the dismantling of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and establishing a clear pathway to citizenship and residency for individuals already living in the country.
“It is not illegal to seek asylum, and it is against our fundamental ideals as a nation to separate families, to cage kids, and to treat people in this country in a way that is not hopeful,” she said.
Omar stressed her commitment to public engagement, citing her frequent in-district office hours.
“As... a Congressperson I'm going to be committed [to] making sure that we are having this group that is responsive and reflective of all of our communities in the district and that we have an opportunity to have ongoing engagements with,” she said.