Opportunity is knocking and while John Derus hasn’t yet opened the door, he’s listening.
The former Hennepin County Board Chair, a powerhouse on the commission for 17 years, said Thursday that he’s thinking about jumping into the race for the County Board seat being vacated by outgoing Commissioner Mark Stenglein.
Redistricting has taken Derus, who lives in north Minneapolis, out of the First District represented by Board Chair Mike Opat – the man who unseated Derus 20 years ago in an upset – and put him into Stenglein’s Second District, which now includes all of the North Side.
Derus, 72, is an executive with Running Aces Harness Park in Anoka County.
Seven candidates plan to run for the seat, including five who have filed this week. Derus has until June 5, when filing closes, to decide. The primary election, which will narrow the field to two, is Aug. 14.
“I have received some support from prominent people who have asked me” to run, Derus said. “I’m thinking of it.”
If Derus gets into the race, it would set up a rematch with state Sen. Linda Higgins, who captured the DFL endorsement for the county board seat last weekend. Higgins narrowly defeated Derus for the Senate in 1996, a race that Derus said he lost because the Star Tribune mistakenly published his picture with an unrelated story on charity fraud.
Derus has DFL and labor ties, although he has run before without party endorsement.
Besides Higgins, candidates who have filed for the job are Leslie Davis, a perennial candidate who ran for govenor in the 2010 Republican primary; Steve Dehler, a Hennepin County correctional officer and former Republican legislator who is running as an independent; small-business owner Tonia Johnson, a DFLer who says she's running as an independent Democrat; and DFLer Blong Yang, an attorney and investigator for the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department.
Other declared candidates are Golden Valley City Council Member Paula Pentel, an independent, and DFLer Don Samuels of the Minneapolis City Council.