Councilmember Scott Benson drops out of state Senate race

City Councilmember Scott Benson (11th Ward) has bowed out of the state Senate race for District 62 after Patricia Torres Ray won an upset victory at the district's endorsing convention earlier this month.

Before the endorsing convention, Benson was a favorite among the DFLers vying for outgoing state Sen. Wes Skoglund's seat, which encompasses several neighborhoods in South Minneapolis and a small pocket of Southwest.

In January, Skokglund announced plans to step down at the end of the 2006 session to spend more time with his family. Skoglund has served in the Senate since 2002 after serving 13 terms in the House.

Torres Ray, a Longfellow resident, is a Colombian immigrant who has 18 years of experience in community organizing and public service work. Currently, she works as a state program administrator for the Minnesota Depart of Human Services.

Prior to her current job, she worked for the state's Office of Ombudsperson for Families, as a consultant for the Chicano Latino Affairs Council and with the Hennepin County's Guardian Ad-Litem program, raising awareness about the needs of Latino children.

&#8220I have decided to run for the Senate because I am profoundly disturbed by our state's retreat from a commitment to the well-being of children, families and communities,” she wrote in a letter posted on her campaign Web site. &#8220We are abandoning our heritage of competent, people-center government, which has enabled Minnesota to rank among the very best in health, education and quality of life.”

Benson, meanwhile, a second-term Councilmember said &#8220this is a time of great need for the city in the Legislature” when asked about his motivation to run for the state Senate earlier this year.

During his first term, Benson headed the Council's Intergovernmental Relations Committee and spent significant time at the State Capitol. Now he is chair of the Health, Energy and Environment Committee.

Other DFLers that sought endorsement were DFL party activist Alex Eaton, Earl Netwal, a former City Councilmember, Tina Sanz, a union and party activist, and Matt Gladue, a community organizer.