While Congressman Martin Sabo reflected on his 46 years as an elected official last week at his Downtown office, a long line of DFL candidates jumped into the race to succeed him.
When the Southwest Journal went to press, the list of DFL candidates included City Councilmembers Paul Ostrow (1st Ward) and Gary Schiff (9th Ward), Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman, state Rep. Keith Ellison, Minneapolis Park Board President Jon Olson and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, a University of St. Thomas professor.
The Green Party's Jay Pond and Republicans Tim Anderson and James Turnham are also running.
While Sabo hasn't endorsed a candidate to succeed him as the state's representative for the 5th Congressional District, he said, “Ideally, you want someone who is on the younger side so they can be there for a period of time.”
Sabo, first elected to Congress in 1978, is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. He points to his leadership on moving former President Bill Clinton's 1993 budget program through the House as one of his greatest achievements in Congress.
“That budget agreement put us on track to significantly reduce the deficit and move to a balanced budget,” Sabo said.
Before being elected to Congress, Sabo served 18 years in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He was first elected in 1960 at the age of 22.
As for standout accomplishments that have impacted people in Southwest and Downtown Minneapolis, Sabo pointed to his work to secure federal funding for the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit (LRT) line, the Hennepin Avenue bridge, Downtown's new federal court building and the Cedar Lake Trail.
City Council President Barb Johnson (4th Ward) had high praise for Sabo.
“What other folks can say that their congressman would come into their living room? He was just such a down-to-earth, unassuming gentleman, yet so powerful,” she said. “And of course his ability to bring the bacon home to Minneapolis was unequaled. That is going to be such a huge loss for us.”
When asked how the race might affect City Council dynamics, with two members vying for Sabo's seat, she said: “I'm not really concerned about people being away from the job. It's going to be quite a short time frame. I doubt really if anybody has too much of a chance to grandstand.”
In a prepared statement announcing his bid for Sabo's seat, Ostrow, a third-term councilmember who chairs the Ways and Means Budget Committee, said: “This is the year of a great awakening of our party and our nation. It is time for commitment, common sense and conscience in our nation's Capitol.”
Dorfman echoed Sabo in her announcement declaring her candidacy.
“This election is not only about sending a progressive Democrat to Congress,” she said. “It is about upholding the values we share and creating a new discourse in our nation's Capitol, one that brings us together instead of tearing us apart.”
The candidates will seek endorsement at a DFL convention May 6.
Besides Minneapolis, the 5th Congressional District is home to several inner-ring suburbs in the northwest metro.
As for retirement, Sabo, a Loring Park resident, said he has a range of plans: “See a few more Twin games, hit a few more golf balls, play a little bit more Bridge, see a little bit more of the grandkids. Who knows? Enjoy life.”