The race for the DFL nomination for the state Legislature will be competitive this year in at least one Southwest Minneapolis district.
Omar Fateh, a 29-year-old business consultant and consumer advocate, is challenging incumbent state Sen. Jeff Hayden for the DFL endorsement in Senate District 62, which includes Whittier, Lyndale, Kingfield and all or parts of eight neighborhoods east of Interstate 35W.
Whoever wins the party nomination will be the heavy favorite to win the general election. The district has voted for DFLers by wide margins in recent years, and only one candidate from each major political party is allowed to appear on the general-election ballot.
Senate District 62 has a couple relatively affluent neighborhoods but is mostly a composed of middle-class and lower-income neighborhoods.
About 50% of residents are people of color, nearly two-thirds rent their homes and over a third speak a language other than English at home.
Here is a closer look at Fateh and Hayden.
The son of Somali immigrants, Fatah grew up near Washington, D.C., spent his summers in Minnesota and earned a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University.
He said he was initially inspired to seek public office in Minnesota in part because of his work on the Hennepin County 2040 plan advisory committee.
Fateh said he thinks he’s the best candidate in Senate District 62 to “bridge the gap” between immigrant, nonimmigrant and indigenous communities.
Core tenets of his platform include a statewide $15 minimum wage, making mass transit free for everyone and creating an “opportunity center” in District 62 for students, youth and new immigrants.
He said his top priority would be increasing protections for renters through measures such as prohibiting landlords from evicting renters in winter and establishing a state emergency fund for tenants in dire situations.
He also wants the state to set a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030, divest state pensions from fossil fuel companies and fully fund public schools, free universal child care and no-cost higher education.
“I don’t think the money’s the issue,” he said, citing the state’s projected $1.3 billion budget surplus. “It’s more of whether or not we want to get this accomplished.”
Fateh’s previous political involvement has included helping with the Minneapolis Public Schools referendum campaigns, canvassing for City Council members and working with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. He also worked for the state departments of revenue and transportation.
He plans to seek the Senate District 62 DFL party chapter’s nomination at its convention, slated for March 28 at South High School. He said he would abide by the endorsement.
This is Fateh’s third run for public office. In 2015, he ran unsuccessfully for the Fairfax County, Virginia, School Board, and in 2018, he finished third in the DFL primary in House District 62A, which includes Stevens Square and Whittier.
Fateh’s Senate campaign had $1,475 on hand at the end of 2019.
Hayden was first elected to the state House in 2008 and was elected to the state Senate in a 2011 special election. He has since won races in 2012 and 2016.
An assistant minority leader, Hayden is on four Senate committees and is the ranking member of the body’s Human Services Reform Finance and Policy committee.
He said his biggest priorities the past four years have been helping people who are on public assistance and child welfare. He also noted he was part of efforts to increase the statewide minimum wage in 2014.
Hayden said he’s the best person to represent the district because he has gotten results over the past decade-plus. He called himself a “pragmatic progressive” and said he believes in progressive values around education and climate.
“I want [Minnesota] to be a great place to live for everybody,” he said. “I want to use my experience, enthusiasm and understanding in the [DFL] caucus to be able to raise and lift all voices.”
On education, Hayden said, it’s important to engage people around opportunity gaps, and he likes the idea of full-service community schools, which have services like health care and after-school activities.
Regarding education, Hayden said it’s important to have a serious conversation about how many kids are homeless, noting an affordable housing crisis and a dearth of new affordable units. He also said it’s important that the business community get involved in education, beyond just advocating for school vouchers, noting as an example how Best Buy has funded tech centers for teens.
“That’s the kind of tangible thing that the business community can do,” he said.
Hayden lives in the Bryant neighborhood. His campaign had $7,647 on hand at the end of 2019.
2020 Election Dates
Feb. 25: Voters from the major political parties meet at their precinct caucuses, beginning the endorsement process for state Legislative races. An endorsement gives a candidate access to the party’s voter database, volunteer assistance and other resources. DFL endorsements carry significant clout in Minneapolis.
Visit caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us to find your precinct caucus site.
March 3: The state’s open presidential primary. No local races.
March-May: Local chapters of major political parties make state legislative endorsements.
May 17: The Minneapolis DFL convention is held for School Board endorsements and other party business.
Aug. 11: Primary elections are held for U.S. Congress, the state legislature, School Board elections and all other non-presidential races.
Nov. 3: General election.