Hopkins school board Chair Jen Westmoreland is running for the newly vacant Sixth District seat on the Hennepin County Board — and says her relationship with County Attorney Mary Moriarty won't be a problem if she's elected.
Westmoreland officially announced her candidacy Sept. 18 in a Facebook post, but has been laying the groundwork for her run at least since former Commissioner Chris LaTondresse announced his resignation in August. She was LaTondresse's campaign chair when he ran for the County Board in 2020.
Westmoreland acknowledged she and Moriarty are in a relationship and noted that they do not live together. She said Moriarty has already notified county leaders of her need to recuse herself from anything regarding the special election.
"We are already putting protections in place," Westmoreland said Wednesday. "I would recuse myself from anything that benefits my partner."
In a statement, Moriarty said she was "deeply supportive of [Westmoreland] for taking this step as she continues her life and career dedicated to serving the community." The County Attorney has 500 employees and a $70 million budget approved by the County Board.
Westmoreland said her longtime focus on helping young people, families and caregivers drove her to run for the Sixth District seat. She added that she has lived her whole life in the district, residing in a number of its communities.
Westmoreland is in the middle of her second term on the Hopkins school board and has already worked closely with county officials including the County Attorney's Office, she said. She was the first candidate to announce a run for the seat.
"I see a lot of opportunities for county resources to be better used within District 6," Westmoreland said. "District 6 is a really diverse community with very diverse needs."
Another candidate, Alicia Gibson, is also running for the seat, according to a Wednesday Facebook post. Two years ago she ran unsuccessfully for Minneapolis City Council; her family has since moved to Edina, Gibson posted.
The Hennepin County Board of Elections called a special election to fill the seat for Tuesday, April 9, 2024. Candidate filing is expected to open Jan. 30 and if more than two candidates file there will be a special primary March 26.
The seat became vacant after the resignation of LaTondresse, whose last day was Sept. 21. LaTondresse resigned to lead Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative in St. Paul.
Hennepin County's Sixth District has 66 precincts and includes parts of Edina, Greenwood, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Shorewood and Wayzata.
The winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of LaTondresse's term, which expires in December 2024. Hennepin County commissioners earn $119,244 annually.