Senate District 59: Entrepreneur challenges two-term senator

Senate District 59

In a district that includes part of the Bryn Mawr neighborhood, plus North Minneapolis and Downtown, an entrepreneur is trying to unseat an attorney who’s been in the Legislature since 2009.

Suleiman Isse
Suleiman Isse

Suleiman Isse, who has started an interpreting/translation services company and a mental health clinic, is challenging Bobby Joe Champion in his bid for a third Senate term. Champion has been endorsed by the DFL.

Isse, a first-time candidate for public office, said he hasn’t seen a lot of change in District 59 in the last 10 to 15 years.

“Everything is getting worse,” he said, adding that residents are suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lingering effects of the Great Recession.

If elected, he said, his top priority would be increasing mental and chemical health access, adding that there need to be more community-based clinics. He also wants to create an emergency-preparedness plan for COVID-19, to fund afterschool programming in District 59 and to encourage minority and female developers to build housing. He also supports a $15 minimum wage, legalizing marijuana and expunging cannabis-related convictions.

Bobby Joe Champion
Bobby Joe Champion

Champion said he wants a third term to build upon his work over the past 11 years, which has included authoring “ban the box” legislation that prevents employers from asking about criminal history on job applications or during interviews.

Bills he authored during the 2019-20 Legislative session included proposals to restore voting rights to felons, limit cash bail usage and aid businesses owned by people of color.

The one bill he carried that became law during the 2019-20 biennium allows a parent whose parental rights were stripped by a court order to petition to re-establish guardianship. Previously, only county attorneys were allowed to petition for the reinstatement of parental rights.

He also helped secure $2 million in funding for the North Market grocery store and community center, which opened in December 2017 in North Minneapolis.

Senate District 59
District 59 includes Bryn Mawr, the North Loop, most of Downtown and all of North Minneapolis.

Champion said he plans on continuing to advocate for the restoration of voting rights to felons, for increasing homeownership and housing options and for investing in jobs for people of color, women and veterans. He also said he wants to see “meaningful” investments in special education and more teachers of color.

In 2018 he ran a short-lived congressional campaign for the 5th District U.S. House seat that was later won by Ilhan Omar.