District 63: Incumbent Ranum faces two-front challenge

Candidate: Sen. Jane Ranum

Party: DFL

Neighborhood: Lynnhurst

Occupation: Part-time Hennepin County prosecutor; state senator

Endorsements: Sierra Club, Clean Water Action Alliance, Education Minnesota, AFSCME, Teamsters, Progressive Minnesota, Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus, Planned Parenthood Political Action Fund

Education: B.S. in elementary education from East Carolina University; law degree from Hamline University

Family: Married, one grown daughter

Phone: 822-5081

Address: 5045 Aldrich Ave. S., 55419

E-mail: [email protected]

Website: ranum.formn.com/

Candidate: Edwina Garcia

Party: Independence Party

Neighborhood: Richfield

Occupation: Unemployed former instructor

Endorsements: Independence Party, Women’s Political Caucus: Abortion Rights Council of Minnesota

Education: B.A. in political science, University of Minnesota; attended U of M law school for two years

Family: Married, one adult daughter

Phone: 861-6140

Address: 6908 5th Ave. S., Richfield, MN 55423

E-mail: [email protected]

Website: www.firecontent.com/garcia63

Candidate: Vern Wilcox

Party: Republican

Neighborhood: Bloomington

Occupation: Construction company owner; Bloomington city councilmember

Endorsements: Republican Party, Game and Fish Coalition, Republican labor group

Education: Dunwoody Institute; U.S. Navy engineering school

Family: Married, two children and two step-children all grown, two grandsons

Phone: (952) 854-1425

Address: 8900 11th Ave. S., Bloomington, MN 55420

E-mail: [email protected]

Website: www.wilcoxforsenate.us

Competing in a district that has added significant suburban territory since her last election, Minneapolis-based District 63 state Sen. Jane Ranum faces opposition from two suburban candidates.

Ranum, 55, of Lynnhurst, has served in the Senate since 1990. That year, her district encompassed only Southwest Minneapolis; however, part of Richfield was added soon afterward. This year’s redistricting added the rest of Richfield and central and east Bloomington.

Sensing that Ranum is vulnerable, two candidates with strong political bases are campaigning to take her job.

Edwina Garcia, a former Richfield DFL state representative, is running under the Independence Party banner, after losing the DFL endorsement to Ranum earlier in the year. Bloomington city councilmember Vern Wilcox is running as a Republican.

In Minneapolis, Senate District 63 covers Armatage, Kenny and parts of Lynnhurst and Windom.

The candidates

Ranum grew up in a small North Carolina college town, not far from the farm where her father was raised. Her mother taught elementary school, and her father farmed on the side while holding a job in a fertilizer store. Growing up in the south during the civil rights era left a deep impression on her politically.

"I really saw real leadership come from courageous people," she said.

Ranum taught school for seven years before obtaining a law degree. Eventually, she took a job as a Hennepin County prosecutor, which she still holds part-time. She said she became politically active in the late ’80s, lobbying the Legislature on pro-choice and children’s issues.

Garcia, 57, grew up in Clovis, N.M., the daughter of an itinerant alcoholic day laborer and a mother who worked in a laundromat. She said she got little guidance from the adults in her life.

Nonetheless, Garcia was motivated to attend college at the University of Minnesota, eventually receiving a political science degree while simultaneously raising a daughter with her husband. She became a community activist in the 1970s after moving to Richfield, at one point holding the title of Richfield DFL Club president.

In 1985, Garcia was elected to the Richfield City Council, and moved over to the state Legislature as a representative in 1990, serving until 1998, when she ran unsuccessfully for Minnesota Secretary of State.

Garcia pointed to a $29.6 million airport-noise mitigation bill she coauthored with Rep. Phil Riveness as one of her crowning legislative

achievements.

"I really work very hard," Garcia said, "because I believe sometimes perseverance will get you there."

Vern Wilcox grew up in Richfield after "35W ate my house" in 1959. His father worked in construction, his mother in a drug store. He served in Vietnam in 1967-68, becoming a construction manager after leaving the military. He now owns a construction business.

He became "a community guy" in the 1970s, working on the Bloomington Planning Commission and the Housing and Redevelopment Authority over the years. In 1993, he ran for City Council when former councilmember Mark Mahon ran successfully for a state House seat.

Wilcox didn’t declare his Republican Party affiliation until about three years ago, he said, but it’s been no secret where he stands.

"I’ve got a reputation out in Bloomington of being the conservative tightwad," he said. "I’m the guy that watches the bucks at City Hall."

Race is on

Ranum said she is taking the race "extremely seriously."

She said she recognizes that both her opponents have strong bases of support in a district that has changed radically with redistricting. As such, Ranum said, she is focusing on her record as a 12-year senator who has championed such issues as airport-noise reduction and to light rail.

Both of her opponents, however, think Ranum can be beaten. Only 22 percent of the reconfigured District 63 is in Ranum’s Minneapolis base. About 33 percent of the district is in Bloomington and about 45 percent in Richfield.

"I believe that right now the power is going to be with the suburbs," Garcia said. "I know that I would represent all three communities well, because I work with everyone. And I think this is a time when … we need to influence other suburban areas and legislators."

Both of Wilcox’s opponents characterize her as having jumped ship when she was unable to compete further as a Democrat.

"I think she realized she couldn’t win a DFL primary so then she ran as Independence Party candidate," Ranum said.

"Let’s face it," said Wilcox, "she was rejected by the Democratic Party. She was a Democrat for how many years? And she failed in a caucus, so now she’s in the Independence Party?"

For her own part, Garcia said only, "I don’t do any kind of end runs."

In Wilcox’s campaign, there is an element of the personal. He said he takes umbrage with what he calls Ranum’s staunch liberalism, especially for her vote against the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. "Things like that have told me that I don’t want to be represented by [Ranum]," Wilcox said.

Nonetheless, Wilcox said he feels comfortable with the "moderate Republican" label, and considers both Ranum and Garcia too liberal to represent the district, he said.

"The experts have always said that Bloomington and Richfield are always slightly leaning to the Democratic side," he said. "My theory has always been that it’s about 15 percent on the strong Democratic side, and about 15 percent on the Republican side, and that other 70 percent floats in the middle."

Said Wilcox: "Frankly, I’m very comfortable with that because I appeal to that middle section." However, he also said, "I think it’s anybody’s horse race. I wouldn’t want to bet on a winner right now."

If she is not overconfident, Ranum thinks her chances of retaining her seat are good. Voters, she said, will decide based on a record of results.

"Which of the three people will be the most effective advocate for the three communities?" she said when asked to define her campaign. "I’m running on my record because I do think this is about effective advocacy on transportation, education and healthcare."

She added: "It’s not about where a person lives."

Jane Ranum on….

Transportation

"When I ran 10 years ago, the expansion of 35W was a huge issue. … I was championing much more of a transit solution to 35W, as opposed to just adding lanes. In 1992, I was talking about light rails on 35W … as well as commuter buses, park-and-ride, the whole thing. If you look at my literature, that’s what I was talking about."

education

"I’m a former elementary school teacher, and obviously my daughter is a product of Minneapolis public schools. I’ve been chief author of numerous bills that have increased the funding for special ed, early childhood, staff development."

Airport Noise

"In 1996, I led the Senate opposition to the Mondale bill that permitted the expansion and the construction of the north-south runway. … The most important thing I’ve done is to get the airport impact aid for Richfield. … What we’re going to do is continue to do what we’ve done."

Tax Policy

"I supported the 2001 property tax reform because it was trying to put more of the cost of education at the state level. … However, at the time, I was concerned because I thought some of the relief given to the commercial [properties] was perhaps deeper than it should have been. … I think we have to examine and reexamine some of the 2001 [reform]."

Edwina Garcia on…

Transportation"I’d rather not add more lanes [to 35W]. I think we can do more stuff without adding lanes. We can use the shoulders the way the buses do. We can institute something like registered vanpooling … But it would give them the capacity to connect the neighborhoods to the freeway."

Education

"[Education funding]is like a bouncing ball… ..if we’re doing very well economically … that’s good. But if we’re not doing well, then the income tax and sales tax do not seem to be the right type of funding. So I would look for a stable source of funding. And I would like to give the school districts levy authority."

Airport Noise

"What I’m thinking about is we ought to build commuter rail to alleviate whatever we can, use the advanced [noise-reduction] technology that we have, and we can mitigate by soundproofing or buying homes and turning them into some industrial commercial use."

Tax Policy

"I don’t know. I think everything would have to be on the table. I’ve been gone four years, so I think I’d have to go back and relearn what’s happened and catch up on all this stuff. I don’t know what the details of the problems are. I want to be at the table with all the facts before me."

Vern Wilcox on…

Transportation

"I think the transportation isn’t that much different in Bloomington than it is in Minneapolis. … [It is] a matter of getting combined plan of roadway improvements, transit improvements and expansion and working with the new light rail to make a functional transit plan."

Education

"I think the Profiles of Learning have failed. I’ve always been a fan of those decisions being made locally by the local superintendents, the local school boards and the local schools and teachers. The state is mandating all this stuff, and the money is … not going back to the teachers and the kids."

Airport Noise

"The solution to this thing really is not to move the airport, because frankly that’s a key thing to this whole industrial district…. I think the bigger issue is working with the airlines to get Stage Three [quietest planes available], not hush-kitted airplanes, and quiet the noise down."

Tax Policy

"I refuse to sign the taxpayer pledge [no tax hikes], which is unusual for a Republican. … I think in some ways [GOP gubernatorial candidate] Tim [Pawlenty] regrets that he signed that pledge. And I think, frankly, a lot of other politicians are going to regret that they signed it. Let’s face it; we’ve got a $2 [billion] to $3 billion budget deficit here."