East Side House candidates list health care, jobs, education and infrastructure as concerns

There are two competitive races within the Minnesota House Districts that cover the East Side. 

In District 66B, which includes the northwestern corner of the Payne-Phalen neighborhood, DFL incumbent John Lesch is challenged by Republican David Richard. 

After longtime representative Sheldon Johnson announced at the end of 2017 that he was retiring after nearly 20 years of representing the East Side, constituents in House District 67B are seeing new faces in the race, which includes Republican Fred Turk and DFLer Jay Xiong. District 67B covers the East Side roughly south of Minnehaha Avenue.

In District 67A, which covers most of the East Side north of Minnehaha Avenue, DFL incumbent Tim Mahoney is running unopposed. 

The Review asked the candidates via email why they are running, what skills and experiences they will bring to the office, what they believe to be the top challenges their districts and the state face and what issues or projects they would prioritize if elected. Richard did not respond to the Review’s questionnaire. 


District 66B

John Lesch, 45, lives in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul with his family and wife Melissa. He has held the District 66B seat for eight two-year terms. When not at the Legislature, Lesch works as an attorney at Lesch & Duren. He has a Juris Doctor from  Hamline University School of Law in government and regulatory affairs. 

Lesch said the experience and skills he would bring to office include his 16 years of having served in the Legislature, 17 years as a practicing attorney, and experiences from being a U.S. Army infantry captain, being in the Minnesota National Guard and an owner of Lesch & Duren.

He said he is running for office because he believes the “opportunity to succeed is the birthright of every native-born and immigrant to Minnesota.” He added that success depends on investment in education, job training, in equal access to quality healthcare and having affordable homes “where working families can raise their kids or live as they see fit without a government that passes judgement on how they do it.”

The top challenges Lesch said he sees facing the state include wage stagnation, health care inflation and a housing shortage. 

If re-elected, Lesch said the issue he would prioritize would be the “fair and transparent delivery of health care services to every Minnesotan regardless of income, origin, race or religion.”


District 67A

Tim Mahoney, 65, lives in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood with his wife Susan Bishop. Mahoney has represented District 67A since 1998. He is a retired pipefitter and has an associate’s degree in pipefitting from St. Paul College. 

Mahoney said his experience of serving the East Side for 20 years has “allowed me to develop deep experience in workforce development, housing, economic development and energy.” 

He said he is running because he has the skills to serve the community. 

The top challenges Mahoney sees in the district and the state include challenges in education, from early childhood to career training, health care, job training and having jobs that pay a living wage. 

If re-elected, Mahoney said the issues he would prioritize would be “insuring health care is available and affordable to all, better education options and better results, stopping wage [theft], more jobs that pay better and continued upgrading of our parks and recreation options.”


District 67B

Fred Turk, 70, lives in the Battle Creek neighborhood with his wife Margaret. He is retired from 3M and has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Turk said the skills and experiences he would bring to office would include being cost-conscious, and well-rounded from working a variety of jobs and living in a variety of communities.

Turk said he is also inventive, great at math and that he enjoys “being needed and creating happiness in others.” His other skill is having a “talent for harmony,” which Turk said is illustrated by the fact that he is the one Republican in his family of Democrats and they all “get along pretty well.” 

Turk said he decided to run after the local Republican party chair put out a call looking for candidates. 

“St. Paul is a one-party town but I don’t believe the people are happy with the way things have been run the last few years, especially with the large tax increases 38 percent higher property taxes in two years in the city, more than a 50-percent increase in state spending in eight years, and health care spending going through the roof,” he said. 

Turk said the top challenges he sees the district and state facing include maintaining quality health care while reducing costs, slowing the rate of state spending to put more money in people’s pockets, fixing Twin Cities roads and reducing traffic congestion, raising test scores in St. Paul schools without raising taxes, and economic growth and jobs in St. Paul and the state. 

If elected, Turk said the first project he would work on would be making state tax code conform with the new federal tax code. He said he’d also like to work on passing a bill to conform Minnesota’s Health Records Act to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. 


Jay Xiong, 35, lives in the Battle Creek neighborhood. He works full time as a workforce development associate at the East Metro Career Pathways & Public Sector Partnership at Hennepin County and has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from St. Olaf College.

Xiong said the skills and experiences he would bring to office include being a community organizer, a nonprofit founder, a public school teacher, union member and a legislative staff member.  

Xiong said he decided to run because of his experience growing up on the East Side as the son of refugees. 

“My parents came to the East Side as political refugees and through a combination of their hard work, government programs, local charities and the kindness of our neighbors they made sure that their children could one day have better opportunities than they did,” Xiong said. 

He added that because of this he graduated from St. Paul Public Schools and St. Olaf College and came back home to to work on the East Side. 

“I believe that when we care for one another, look after one another, and work together, we can accomplish many great things,” Xiong said. 

He said the challenges he sees facing the district and state are the rising cost of college, education, achievement gaps, attacks on immigrants, and the decline of working class jobs that pay decent wages and gun violence. 

If elected, Xiong said, “I will fight for working class families and individuals by strengthening our education system, creating opportunities for economic growth, especially for the East Side, and prioritizing public safety and improved community relations.”


Election Day is Nov. 6. To find your polling place visit www.pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us. 


– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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