Rebecca Otto, the DFL state auditor running for governor, on Monday named an information technology professional and health care advocate as her running mate.
Zarina Baber has worked on expanding health care access by helping establish a free clinic in Fridley and has served on the board of the nonprofit Advocates for Human Rights. She also is a founding member of the National Democratic Muslim Caucus, which she said she helped form after seeing divisiveness grow during the 2016 election.
"We are looking forward to uplifting all of Minnesota as one unified community," Baber, of Andover, said at a Capitol news conference with Otto.
Baber has worked in information technology for 25 years and has served as a program director or manager at various large private companies, including Ameriprise Financial Services, Fairview Health Services and Target, as well as working for Hennepin County.
This is her first time running for public office, although she first got involved in politics by volunteering for Paul Wellstone in the 1990s.
She said she sees a lot of similarities between the late U.S. senator and Otto, who has been state auditor since 2007.
"She speaks with conviction, but not only does she speak with conviction, but she actually acts on it," Baber said. "And that's what drew me to Rebecca."
While they are the only all-female ticket for governor and lieutenant governor this year, they are not the state's first such ticket. If elected, Baber could be the first Muslim woman to hold statewide office, Otto said.
Otto is running against U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and state Rep. Erin Murphy for the DFL endorsement at the party's convention the first weekend in June. Walz has selected state Rep. Peggy Flanagan as his running mate. Murphy announced Monday that she would wait to see if she gets the party endorsement before choosing a running mate.
Murphy said in a statement that she is having conversations with a small group of candidates, but added that it's "important to have the option of avoiding infighting by having a conversation with my DFL opponents to see if we can come together to put Minnesotans first."
Otto said she wanted a running mate who has the resolve to help fix major issues, like growing health care costs. She said she sees Baber as the right person to tackle that challenge and help implement a single-payer health care system for the state.
"She understands the importance of having access to the most basic things, like health care," Otto said, noting her work on the free clinic.
Baber, 60, said al-Shifa Clinic she helped create in Fridley was intended to ensure that everyone, including new immigrants to the country and people who want a culturally sensitive environment, are taken care of.
She grew up in Hyderabad, India, and has lived in the United States since 1976. She has a master's degree in technology management from the University of St. Thomas and a master's certificate in health care leadership from Cornell University.