State Sen. Jeff Hayden, who represents a large swath of south Minneapolis in the Legislature, is facing a challenge from a fellow DFLer.
Mohamoud Hassan filed as a candidate on Tuesday. In a phone interview, Hassan said he has heard complaints that Hayden is not accessible to his constituents.
"I don't see a connection with the community. He doesn't go to community meetings," Hassan said. "You have to connect with the community, with the neighborhoods."
Hayden rejected that assertion, saying the whole thrust of his legislative career has been as advocate for the large population of economically distressed residents of his district. He said he doesn't know Hassan but welcomed the debate.
"I welcome the challenge and I'm ready for the conversation," Hayden said.
Hassan is a Somali immigrant who said he moved to Minnesota in 1995. He said he spent several years as a co-host and producer of the KFAI-FM radio program "Somali Voices," and said he is most known around Minneapolis by the nickname he acquired during that period: "BBC" Hassan.
Hassan said he also worked for a time for the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, and volunteered for other Somali-oriented local causes.
Hassan said he would seek the DFL endorsement, but said that if he is not able to wrestle it away from Hayden, then he will not run in the August primary election. The endorsing convention is on April 24 at South High School.
In December, Hayden and his wife agreed to repay $2,750 to settle claims alleging they personally benefited from the defunct nonprofit Community Action of Minneapolis. Hayden was a board member and his wife was a proxy; a state audit last year found the organization misspent at least $800,000 between 2011 and 2013, and its former chief executive is facing federal criminal charges.
Hayden has denied all wrongdoing, and said Wednesday they repaid the money to put the matter behind them. Hayden was elected to the state House in 2008 and the Senate in 2011. He is the deputy majority leader. Senate Republicans filed an ethics complaint against Hayden over the Community Action matter, but the Senate's Ethics Committee deadlocked on the issue along party lines.
Senate District 62 includes the neighborhoods of Central, Kingfield, Phillips, Powderhorn and Whittier. The Senate District 62 DFL website describes it as "Minnesota's most racially and ethnically diverse Senate district." The area is heavily Democratic. Hayden is currently one of three African-American members of the Legislature.