The lead organizer for Black Lives Matter St. Paul plans to challenge the only black member of the Minnesota House for her seat in next year’s election.
Rashad Turner, 30, said Saturday that not enough progress has been made in St. Paul’s communities of color after three terms of DFL Rep. Rena Moran representing District 65.
“Organizing for Black Lives Matter, social justice is near and dear to my heart,” Turner said. “It’s something I felt Rena Moran hasn’t attempted to tackle in her three terms.”
But Moran said Turner has ignored a record that includes sponsoring bills that directed funds to education initiatives aimed at targeting intergenerational poverty and directing state Department of Health funds toward efforts to reduce high tobacco and menthol use in Minnesota’s African-American communities.
“I’m not coming into it fresh and wide-eyed with bright ideas. I’m coming with that experience and knowledge to move forward the agenda we need at this time,” Moran, 55, said. “I bring those connections. I bring a community of people with me who have done it, who have continued to do it.”
Turner kicked off his campaign Saturday with a peace rally in St. Paul that he said was focused on “the gun violence and violence in general that’s plaguing St. Paul.” Both candidates say their campaigns will also put on fundraisers next month.
As the leader of Black Lives Matter St. Paul, Turner has organized protests that included a march to the gates of the State Fair in August and a plan to disrupt the Twin Cities Marathon in October, which he modified after meeting with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.
He mounted an unsuccessful write-in campaign for a seat on the St. Paul School District board that earned an endorsement by the Green Party. Turner has yet to accept a party endorsement in this campaign but said he is leaning toward the Green Party again.
Turner, who is in graduate school, said he planned to make criminal justice reform and social justice a big part of his platform and argue for the need to have a “fresh face and young mind involved at the community level.”
Turner anticipates taking some heat for challenging the House’s only black representative, but said Moran “has not put in the work” to change St. Paul.
Moran said a closer look at her record might have led Turner to decide not to challenge her.
“We could have worked together collectively … for District 65A,” Moran said.