DFL endorses Sen. Higgins

She defeated two rivals on the second ballot for the Hennepin County Second District board seat, but primary remains.

State Sen. Linda Higgins convincingly won the DFL Party endorsement Sunday for Hennepin County's Second District board seat, but her victory didn't do much to shake up the field of primary opponents she'll be facing in August.

Higgins, of north Minneapolis, won the party nod on the second ballot with 62.8 percent of the votes cast by 113 delegates at the convention at Edison High School. Sixty percent was needed for endorsement, and she came up 5 percent short on the first ballot.

Her opponents, Minneapolis school board member Jill Davis and Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels, split the remaining votes.

Samuels, who had hinted he would run in the primary if he didn't get the endorsement, confirmed that in a speech. Davis had said she would abide by the endorsement, and she said afterward she still planned to do that -- although she added that supporters were encouraging her to run.

Candidates who decided to forgo the endorsement process and go straight to the primary are Tonia Johnson of north Minneapolis, a small-business owner and former aide to Commissioner Mark Stenglein, and Blong Yang of north Minneapolis, an attorney and Minneapolis Civil Rights Department investigator.

Paula Pentel, a Golden Valley City Council member and university instructor, is running as an independent for the County Board seat.

Higgins said she was pleased with her victory. "I'm a real hands-on person, and the county is real hands-on government," she said.

Filing for the seat opens Tuesday. It opened up when Stenglein announced in February that he was stepping down to become president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

Because the seat will be vacant, the winner will take office right after the November election and serve two years before facing election for a regular four-year term in 2014.

The Second District is arguably the county's most diverse, stretching from Plymouth through north and northeast Minneapolis to St. Anthony. It's considered a DFL stronghold.

No candidates have yet declared themselves from Republican, Green or Independence party ranks.

In a question-and-answer session before delegates voted, the three candidates said they oppose the constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage and require citizens to show official photo IDs before voting, and also to widening Golden Valley Road if the Bottineau transitway goes through Golden Valley.

Samuels and Higgins said they thought County Board Chair Mike Opat's idea of having county seats on the Minneapolis school board was worth exploring, while Davis called it "arrogant and disrespectful."

Samuels said he decided not to abide by the endorsement because he considers the process undemocratic. Delegates had already been chosen before Stenglein resigned from office, he said, and only 120 or so showed up Sunday. "We're going to move into the primary and give the people of the county a chance to give their opinion," he said.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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