East Siders choose new faces in midterms

For the 2018 midterm elections, Minnesotans came out in droves to elect new representation in a variety of races across the state. The Secretary of State’s office reported that about 64 percent of the state’s nearly 4 million eligible voters came out to vote on Nov. 6.

The same held true on the East Side, where voters chose quite a few familiar faces, but also some new ones.


House District 67B 

The race with a guaranteed new face was that of Minnesota House District 67B, which represents the southern half of the East Side. Nearly a year ago, Rep. Sheldon Johnson, DFL, who has represented the district for nearly 20 years, announced he would retire at the end of 2018.

DLFer Jay Xiong won the seat with 78 percent of the vote. Fred Turk, the Republican candidate, grabbed just less than 22 percent. 

Xiong, who will begin his first term in January, said in an email he believes he won because, “I believe the East Side is ready for a new wave of leadership that is passionate about engagement, that is bold about how we want to shape our future together, and most of all, one that is grassroots.”

He said that with demographics changing on the East Side, leading to younger and more diverse constituents, “it is inevitable that our voters will put forth many hungry new candidates like me who want to give back to our community by being a voice at the table.”

Xiong will be heading to a DFL-majority House when the next session begins Jan. 8, but said he is looking forward to working across the aisle with his new colleagues. 

“I cannot be a community organizer or activist for 10 years if I am not willing to work with anyone and everyone I need to talk to in order to advocate for an issue,” he said. 

Xiong said some of the first issues he will work on at the Capitol will include early childhood education, health care, economic development, public safety, the environment and infrastructure. 

Xiong, whose campaign was co-chaired by Johnson, thanked the longtime lawmaker for his years of representing the East Side. 

“Sheldon has been a staunch champion of the East Side and our neighborhoods, and his wisdom and intelligence has guided us through  great changes in the city.” 


Ramsey County Commissioner District 3

Newcomer Trista MatasCastillo won the race for Ramsey County Commissioner District 3 over incumbent Janice Rettman. 

MatasCastillo won some 63 percent of the vote to Rettman’s near 37 percent, unseating her after representing the district since 1997.

District 3 covers the northwestern corner of the East Side’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood, as well as the North End, Como, Frogtown and Hamline-Midway neighborhoods of St. Paul, along with Falcon Heights.

Asked why she’d won, said MatasCastillo, “Because of hard work and [because] the community was just ready for change, and they’re ready for someone who’s going to be a champion for our community.”

She she said that while she has her priorities and issues she wants to work on, she understands she’ll need to meet with her other colleagues and “get into that process.” 

MatasCastillo said her hope is to work on improving access to county services, making transit in the district more accessible and safer and “ensuring we have housing selection for people who live in our area.”

She also said she wants to address poverty by increasing economic development — bringing in businesses and good paying jobs. She added that she sees a number of underdeveloped sites, like the Kmart directly west of Interstate 35E in St. Paul, as places that could be developed for jobs and homes. 

Another issue she’d like to get to work on right away is addressing the issue of District 3 being a food dessert, with relatively few choices for grocery stores and healthy food. She said she’d like to find ways to invest county dollars to help with the issue, perhaps by supporting urban farms.


Ramsey County Sheriff’s race

In a race that hasn’t been competitive since 2010, a familiar face will be returning as Ramsey County Sheriff. 

Bob Fletcher, who was unseated by Matt Bostrom in 2010 after serving as sheriff for 16 years, was elected to the position with nearly 53 percent of the vote.

Current Ramsey County Sheriff Jack Serier got about 47 percent of the vote. Serier was appointed to the position in 2017 after then-Sheriff Bostrom resigned to take a position at the University of Oxford. 

Fletcher did not return a request for comment.


Incumbents leave few surprises

In Minnesota House District 66B, DFL incumbent John Lesch won the race with 83 percent of the vote. He has represented the district since 2002. His opponent, David E. Richard, a Republican, got about 16 percent of the vote. 

In the Ramsey County Commissioner District 5 race, incumbent Rafael Ortega was challenged by James Jaeger. Ortega won with 75 percent of the vote, while Jaeger came away with 24 percent.

In the Ramsey County Attorney race, two-term incumbent John Choi ran away with 78 percent of the vote. His challenger, Luke Kyper Bellville, tallied 21 percent. Choi was first elected to the office in 2010 and in 2014 faced no opposition in his run for re-election.

DFL Rep. Betty McCollum won her re-election bid for the 4th Congressional District with 66 percent of the vote. McCollum has served the district since 2001. This year she faced two challengers: Greg Ryan, a Republican, who got nearly 30 percent of the vote, and Susan Pendergast Sindt of the Legal Marijuana Now Party, who got 4 percent of the vote. 

East Side voters saw two uncontested races as well. In Minnesota House District 67A, 20-year DLF incumbent Tim Mahoney ran unopposed and won. In the Ramsey County Commissioner District 6 race, incumbent Jim McDonough also ran unopposed. He has represented the district since 2000 and will continue to do so come 2019.


–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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