FIRST DISTRICT: MIKE OPAT
Being an effective elected official means seizing the initiative and leading your colleagues to embrace solutions. Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat's record suggests he will continue to be this kind of leader. Voters should reelect him in the First District.
Among his accomplishments, Opat led the effort to build Target Field. It's not only one of the best sports facilities in the country, but it's also helped revitalize a crucial downtown entertainment district.
It will take similar leadership to advance the Southwest light-rail project, as well as the planned Bottineau light-rail line, which would expand transit options to the northern suburbs. Opat understands that transit investment not only brings badly needed jobs now, but makes the county, region and indeed the state much better positioned for the future.
Opat's opponent, small-business owner Chris Rains, is far less likely to advocate for needed infrastructure investments. Instead, he's mostly focused on lowering property taxes and cutting commissioners' pay. Rains didn't show enough range on other issues. On the Southwest line, for instance, Rains said he was in favor of planning for the line but not necessarily implementing it. Such an approach would effectively end the chance for federal funding.
The Hennepin County Board needs Opat's continued leadership.
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SECOND DISTRICT: LINDA HIGGINS
Two strong candidates are running for Hennepin County's Second District seat. Linda Higgins, a veteran DFL state senator, will face Blong Yang, a Minneapolis attorney. Higgins' legislative experience and expertise would be immediate assets for the County Board, and she earned our endorsement.
At the Capitol, Higgins worked on human services and chaired the Senate's Public Safety Division. Given county government's emphasis on these two key areas, she could immediately help the board maximize efficiencies while still delivering essential services.
Higgins would also be a savvy advocate with her former colleagues in efforts to lobby the Legislature to pony up the state's share of Southwest light-rail funding.
Yang, born in a Thai refugee camp, brings an inspiring personal story to his candidacy. If elected, he would be the first minority member in an increasingly diverse Hennepin County to serve on the board.
But Higgins is much more experienced, which is reflected in her deep list of endorsements, including the DFL Party, many labor unions and other elected officials. We hope Yang will stay involved in the political process. He has the caliber to be a thoughtful and effective elected official.