When Nathan Blumenshine door knocks in South Minneapolis, his best asset is his tongue, which can speak English, Spanish, Arabic, Somali and Russian to varying degrees of fluency.
Blumenshine, 25, is running with hopes to be the next state representative from House District 61B, which includes the diverse neighborhoods of Whittier, Lyndale, Kingfield, Central, Bryant, Regina, Field and Powderhorn.
“The other day I went to one door and I was speaking Somali, the next I was speaking Russian,” said Blumenshine, who grew up in Powderhorn and now lives in Kingfield. “It’s so cool to see people from all parts of the world here where I was born.”
He faces an uphill battle in a special election to fill a seat in a heavy DFL district. Blumenshine is an “independent progressive” with beliefs firmly in line with the most liberal of the DFL party.
His opponent, Susan Allen, won her party’s endorsement and has the backing of several unions, social justice organizations and elected officials.
Allen is a Native American woman who lives in the Powderhorn neighborhood and is a partner in the Fredericks, Peebles & Morgan law firm, which provides counsel to Indian tribes.
In a candidate forum at City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden’s Mornings with Elizabeth event, Allen said she was running to fight for social justice.
“I believe my whole life has prepared me for this,” she told the crowd. “I grew up in poverty and we moved a lot. By the time I was 14 I had attended 20 different schools. All of my life I have faced discrimination. I have fought against discrimination based on my race and my gender and as a lesbian.”
Allen beat out three DFL challengers in a primary on Nov. 12. After the DFL party endorsed her, two of her opponents stopped campaigning and a third did not run an active campaign in the first place.
Blumenshine, who worked on President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 and on a single payer health plan in Minnesota, said he considered running as a Democrat but decided the current two-party system isn’t working and opted to run as a “respect” candidate.
Not running as a DFLer has its challenges. Blumenshine has met with several politicians, unions and other organizations seeking their endorsements. Not even Jeff Hayden, the current state senator with whom Blumenshine worked with on a single payer health care system, gave Blumenshine his endorsement.
“I tried really hard. I’ve had a great time seeking endorsements, but it’s been really hard. Nobody has endorsed me, but we’ve had really positive responses from every group that I’ve sought their endorsement.
“Running as an independent, people say, ‘you’re burning bridges with all your Democrat allies.’ You know, that’s really unfortunate people see it that way because I don’t think that’s true,” Blumenshine said.
Blumenshine’s campaign raised nearly $7,000 primarily from his family and friends through Nov. 22. Allen raised $9,450 in that time, collecting $1,800 from special interests.
Allen and her campaign did not return phone calls for this story.
Both candidates said they oppose local taxes and gambling expansion to subsidize a Vikings stadium. While Allen opposes any public subsidy, Blumenshine says he could support a subsidy if it is raised through tax hikes on the wealthiest Minnesotans.
“There are better ways to spend our tax dollars to get us to help improve the economy,” Allen said at the forum.
To find your polling place for the Jan. 10 special election, visit pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.
Susan Allen’s campaign website: susanallen61b.com
Nathan Blumenshine’s campaign website: blumenshine.org