Party politics is becoming a factor in the two normally nonpartisan mayoral races in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.
Incumbent mayors in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center will face a passel of challengers in the Aug. 12 primaries.
The candidate filing period that closed last week has two-term Brooklyn Center Mayor Tim Willson facing a charter commission member and a political newcomer.
In Brooklyn Park, Mayor Jeff Lunde, seeking a second term, has three opponents, including community activist Joy M. Stephens. She was endorsed in May by the recently formed city DFL caucus, the first time the group has endorsed a council candidate. Stephens, 42, making her first run for elected office, also has endorsements from several DFL groups and politicians, including Willson, state Rep. Debra Hilstrom and state Sens. John Hoffman and Chris Eaton.
Lunde, 46, a Republican, said local leaders have advised him not to seek political endorsements for the nonpartisan position as the mayor must work with politicians on both sides of the aisle.
“Political endorsements tend to hinder, not help,” Lunde said.
The two other Brooklyn Park candidates are Yelena S. Kurdyumova, 56, a small-business owner and freelance writer, and Boyd Morson, 51, who ran for mayor with 11 others in a special election after incumbent Steve Lampi died in 2011.
The top two vote-getters in each city’s primary will advance to the Nov. 4 general election.
In Brooklyn Park, Kurdyumova was on the city’s Human Rights Commission and then was appointed in 2013 to the Hennepin County Human Resources Board. She runs a translation business.
Morson, a disabled veteran, was also on the city rights commission and was vice president of the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commission until 2008, when he was voted off. He said he had a falling out with the league over its lack of action and was voted off after he properly registered the council with the state.
If he was mayor, Morson said that, without promises of jobs for residents, he would oppose about $5 million in tax rebates the city has promised Target Corp. after it fills twin office towers on its northern campus. Target has said it will transfer about 3,000 high-tech workers from its Minneapolis headquarters to the towers on Hwy. 610.
Stephens is a community leader who has criticized the Target deal, which she said doesn’t help the city’s many lower-income and racially diverse residents.
“Jeff is a mayor for who Brooklyn Park used to be, not where it’s going,” Stephens said. She said she has worked to engage many racial groups in the city “to create racial and economic equity.”
Lunde said he backed Zanewood, a city-staffed after-school program attended by many minority students. He noted that he traveled at his own expense to Liberia in 2012 to better understand Brooklyn Park’s large Liberian population. He also has supported city efforts that have attracted Olympus, Baxter International and other companies to town. And he said the city will gain over time from the Target subsidy because of higher property taxes, tower construction jobs, and spinoff business to area restaurants and retailers.
Kurdyumova, who was born and attended college in Moscow, came to the Twin Cities in 1995. She said her international experience equips her to understand the needs and concerns of a city in which about half the residents are minorities and many are foreign born. She said Brooklyn Park doesn’t need to spend money on the PR firm hired by Lunde and the council to improve its image. What is needed is better use of tax dollars to reduce crime, care for the homeless and improve roads and older housing, she said.
Lunde noted that crime has dropped during his tenure and said he pushed for a $950,000 youth homeless shelter that he expects to break ground in July.
3 in Brooklyn Center
In Brooklyn Center, incumbent Willson faces political newcomer Mike Elliott, 31, and Robert Marvin, 46, an electrical engineer who serves on the city Charter Commission. Willson, 61, chief technical officer for the state Office of Management and Budget, beat Marvin in the 2010 mayor’s race.
Elliott manages a translation service and has a college degree in international management. He graduated from Brooklyn Center High School and said he has served on the Community Emergency Assistance Program board and in several youth agencies, including the Brooklyn Bridge Alliance, aimed at creating opportunities for youth in the two Brooklyns.