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I am a true Minnesota progressive and a Democratic primary challenger to Rep. Ilhan Omar.

As Minnesota’s first Black, openly LGBTQ+ candidate for the U.S. House, my election would serve as a glowing beacon of equality in action. I am committed to creating a more united and inclusive Minnesota with a goal of fully realizing true equality and stability for Minnesota’s Fifth District.

My advocacy will focus on finding solutions to improve the lives of all Minnesotans. Many in our community face a real wealth gap and have unequal access to education, stable housing, health care, credit and loans, living wages and fairness in the criminal justice system. I will work to create equality and advocate for policies that provide for our economic stability, safety in our community and security in our health care.

I will also work to vigorously combat climate change, protect our environment and support the Green New Deal. In education, I am committed to find new ways to eliminate the achievement gap, create affordable and equal access to higher education, and reduce the burden of student loans.

I believe health care is a right, not a privilege. The ACA with a public option will be the best step in achieving universal health care or Medicare for All.

In politics, who you are matters as much as what you stand for. As an elected advocate representing our community, I strive to be the mantle of unmatched credibility when advocating for legislation that promotes equality. My candidacy embodies the struggles, hopes and dreams of all Minnesotans.

As the first out gay Black man to serve in Congress, I would advocate for the LGBTQ+ people and their families. While we have made advances in the courts regarding decriminalization of our intimate lives, prohibition on employment discrimination and achieving marriage equality, we still have far to go for true equality and economic stability.

Recent decisions leave open the ability to discriminate against us based on a religious exemption. I fear that those who hate and want our community marginalized and put back in the shadows will use this religious excuse to legally disenfranchise and destabilize our families.

Credible leadership provides effective advocacy. Throughout my life, I have sought to break down systemic barriers that blocked access to true equality and economic stability for all. To more fully understand the Black and underrepresented struggle, I chose to study at a historic Black college to earn multiple master’s degrees (master of public administration in government and policy, MBA and management information systems), while working full-time in government and business.

I have fought discrimination throughout my 30-plus years in nonprofit, academic, government and business leadership by challenging the status quo and demanding better representation in those organizations — often to my own disservice. I have had to bring lawsuits to combat discrimination and fight for equality. I know how to fight and stand up for my community. I became the first openly gay man and one of the first African Americans to become a karate world champion. I will bring these life experiences to my advocacy.

As a true Minnesota progressive, my campaign believes that the people of the Fifth District are among the most educated and active voter populations in the country. Minnesotans understand the value of their vote and the importance of representation and credibility on the issues, and they are not easily manipulated, influenced or swayed by big-money politicians and political ad campaigns. We believe our voters will make an educated, independent decision and vote based on merit and the issues they care about.

With that in mind, I ask for your vote to be your next member of Congress in Minnesota’s Fifth District.

John Mason is a DFL candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District.