House District 37A: Erin Koegel

DFLer Erin Koegel may be a first-time candidate for the state House, but she discusses state policy complexities like an old hand. The 34-year-old volunteer coordinator at Community Action Partnershp of Ramsey County has worked in and around the Legislature for most of her adult life, including a stint as executive director of the nonprofit group Health Care for All.

She’s better prepared to make an impact for her Coon Rapids-Blaine-Spring Lake Park district than is her GOP opponent, Anthony Wilder. Koegel gets our nod for the seat Rep. Jerry Newton is leaving to run for the state Senate.

Koegel, whose credentials include a master’s degree in advocacy and public leadership from University of Minnesota Duluth, is ready to contribute to the health-insurance debate that’s likely to dominate the 2017 session. She wants to explore extending the reach of MinnesotaCare, the state-subsidized insurance program for the working poor, to at least some of the people who buy insurance in the increasingly expensive individual market.

The Maple Grove native also wants to lighten the cost burden of child care, preschool and college education for middle-income families. The relationships she already has with legislators should be an asset for her district.

Wilder, 35, is also a first-time candidate, but his familiarity with the Legislature’s work is comparatively scant. He’s been a manager at Metro Gun Club in Blaine, a business his family owns, and he recently purchased a commercial real-estate brokerage firm. He exhibits commendable desire to “give back to the community” but insufficient preparation for legislative work. Brian McCormick of the Libertarian Party is also on the ballot.

 

House District 48A: Laurie Pryor

When state Rep. Yvonne Selcer unexpectedly announced in April that she would not seek a third term in her Minnetonka-Eden Prairie district, Laurie Pryor realized that she was well-suited to run in her stead. As a retired communications and management consultant and 27-year resident of the district, Pryor is well-versed in state and local issues. As a DFL activist, she had already doorknocked the district many times.

We share Pryor’s self-assessment. She’s a strong candidate who deserves election over Republican Mary Shapiro, who recently retired after 35 years teaching in the Minneapolis Public Schools.

Pryor, 59, has deep interest in health care for good reason — her husband, Jon, is CEO of Hennepin County Medical Center. She wants to attack the root causes of high premium costs on the MNsure insurance exchange, not just offer exchange shoppers a discount. She’s keen to reduce the burdens that high health-care costs and the statewide property tax are putting on small businesses.

She takes a long-term view, connecting her support for mass transit to the needs of an aging population and the climate benefits of reducing automobile use. Unlike her opponent, Pryor is a strong supporter of Southwest light rail.

Shapiro, 63, would bring to the Capitol the valuable perspective of an inner-city teacher who developed programs tailored for immigrant students. But particularly on state budget matters, she would face a steep learning curve.

 

House District 52B: Regina Barr

Voters in Inver Grove Heights, Mendota Heights and Sunfish Lake have been well-served in the state House for 14 years by DFL Rep. Joe Atkins, who opted to run this year for the Dakota County Board. That caliber of representation is likely to continue with two able candidates on the ballot to succeed him.

Narrowly, we prefer Republican Regina Barr over DFLer Mary T’Kach for District 52. Barr, 51, combines extensive business and entrepreneurial experience with the common touch that one acquires by working one’s way through college as the daughter of a single mother. That combination, plus ample communication ability, should help her play the role she says she seeks as an agent of bipartisan compromise.

A New York native, Barr was a marketing specialist in the banking industry and worked for a nonprofit before starting her own consulting firm for small and midsize businesses in 2013. She’s sensitive both to employers’ calls for less-burdensome state regulations and employees’ needs for affordable child care and transportation options. She would be a needed Republican voice for both road and transit investments.

T’Kach, 58, is also impressive. Though like Barr, she’s a first-time candidate, T’Kach has more government savvy. She’s spent much of her adult life working in and around government. For the past six years, she’s been the energy and sustainability coordinator for Ramsey County, gaining desirable environmental policy expertise.

While T’Kach says she, too, would strive for bipartisanship, Barr seems better positioned to achieve that goal.