A seasoned state lawmaker and an aide to a former St. Paul City Council member, who both shared their personal struggles with poverty, will join the Ramsey County Board.
Voters across the metro area decided dozens of local races on Tuesday including county commissioners, sheriffs, mayors and council members.
Mai Chong Xiong, a community organizer who had worked for former St. Paul Council Member Dai Thao, narrowly defeated business owner Ying Vang-Pao in the race to fill the Ramsey County Board District 6 seat. The seat is being vacated by longtime Commissioner Jim McDonough.
Outgoing state Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, easily defeated Darryl Spence for the District 4 seat. The position is vacant due to the retirement of Commissioner Toni Carter.
Xiong said her background on St. Paul's East Side propelled her into politics. In her campaign material, she described being homeless as a child and helping her parents apply for food stamps.
"As a Hmong daughter of refugees who grew up living in poverty, I saw how my family and many in our community bore the brunt of a system that was not built to put equity, working families, and Black, Brown, Indigenous, People of Color at the center of it. I knew this needed to change," she wrote.
Moran emphasized her 11 years in the Legislature representing portions of St. Paul including Frogtown, Summit-University and historic Rondo coupled with her personal hardships.
"My personal experience with experiencing homelessness, having to rely on public assistance to provide for my own family, and dedication towards putting families first is what sets me apart as a leader," Moran told voters.
Meanwhile, all Ramsey County incumbents sailed to victory.
In District 5, Commissioner Rafael Ortega held off small-business owner Bill Hosko. In District 3, Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo bested David A. Singleton.
Ramsey County now has one of the most diverse governing bodies in the state. Six of its seven commissioners are women. Ortega, the only man on the board, is of Puerto Rican descent. Xiong is Hmong. Moran is Black.
The board makeup mirrors the diversifying population of the state's second largest county, which is 60% white, nearly 16% Asian American, 13% African American, nearly 8% Latino and about 4% mixed race, according to U.S. Census numbers.
In Ramsey County's largest suburb, Maplewood Mayor Marylee Abrams fended off challenger Diana Longrie, who had served as mayor from 2006 to 2009.
Roseville Mayor Dan Roe held back challenger Julie Marie Strahan, who is a sitting Roseville City Council member.
Residents in the private city of North Oaks unseated incumbent Mayor Kara Ries, electing challenger Krista Wolter, who is a real estate agent. City leaders were entangled in a legal battle with the city's founding family, heirs of railroad magnate James J. Hill, in recent years dividing the community.
Arden Hills Mayor David Grant fended off challenger Gregg Larson, but voters ousted three incumbents on the Arden Hills City Council, replacing them with challengers Emily Rousseau, Tena Monson and Tom Fabel, who promised to work with Ramsey County to complete the stalled development of the 427-acre former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site.
In Dakota County, interim County Attorney Kathy Keena defeated Matt Little in the race for county attorney, while four of the county's seven districts had a contested county commissioner race.
Commissioner Joe Atkins, representing District 4, defeated South St. Paul Mayor Jimmy Francis to replace outgoing Commissioner Kathleen Gaylord in District 2, which has new boundaries due to redistricting.
Incumbent Mary Liz Holberg defeated Mike Robole, a small-business owner, to serve District 6, which includes Lakeville.
Longtime Rosemount Mayor Bill Droste beat Dr. Seema Maddali, an emergency room physician, for the District 4 seat.
Commissioner Laurie Halverson defeated Janine Hudson in District 3, which represents portions of Eagan, Mendota and Mendota Heights. Hudson works for Hennepin County.
Sen. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, squeaked out a victory for the District 4 county board seat against Rep. Keith Franke, R-St. Paul Park. Both legislators saw big changes to their district boundaries in recent redistricting, and decided to run for the nonpartisan county board seat as a result.
Commissioner Stan Karwoski defeated challenger Julie Ohs for the District 2 seat. Michelle Clasen won the District 5 seat, beating Andrea Date, who currently serves on the Woodbury City Council.
Scott and Carver counties
Ron Hocevar, who has been Scott County attorney for nearly eight years, defeated challenger Allen Andersen.
In District 3, Shakopee City Council Member Jody Brennan defeated former Council Member Michael Luce and will replace outgoing Commissioner Michael Beard. Three Scott County commissioners also ran unopposed in their districts.
In Carver County, three county commissioners faced an opponent to keep their seat. In District 1, Commissioner Gayle Degler defeated Lisa Anderson, a leadership development consultant. Commissioner Tom Workman beat Jay Johnson, a retired environmental engineer, in District 2. In District 5, Commissioner John Fahey fended off Aaron Burkhart, a small-business owner.
In the race for Anoka County sheriff, Brad Wise, the former Coon Rapids police chief, defeated Paul Lenzmeier, who works for the sheriff's office as a division commander.
All seven Anoka County board seats were on the ballot, with six incumbents winning their races. Commissioner Matt Look defeated Kevin Landry. Commissioner Jeff Reinert bested challenger Cindy Hansen and Commissioner Scott Schulte won against Raymond Zeran. Commissioner Mike Gamache defeated Tracy Strombeck. Commissioner Mandy Meisner bested challenger Joseph Sturdevant. Commissioner Julie Braastad ran unopposed.
Julie Jeppson, a nonprofit leader and Blaine City Council member, defeated Dave Clark for the open District 6 seat.
Brooklyn Center ousted Mayor Mike Elliott in favor of challenger April Graves as Twin Cities voters flocked to the polls Tuesday to decide dozens of races for county commissioners, school board seats, suburban mayors and councils.
Graves, who works for the Minneapolis Health Department, serves on the Brooklyn Center City Council and promised to take "innovative steps to address racial and economic inequity" while increasing transparency, accountability and access to opportunities.
In neighboring Brooklyn Park, Hollies Winston defeated Wynfred Russell. He will become that city's first Black mayor. Winston is the CEO of Guaranteed America, a business advocacy firm that supports minority-owned and small businesses.
In Columbia Heights, Mayor Amada Marquez Simula fended off challenger Cliff Johnson.
Minneapolis Public Schools
Voters selected five new members for the Minneapolis school board Tuesday — a board that will face several big decisions, including the selection of a new superintendent to lead the state's third-largest district. Collin Beachy and Sonya Emerick won the two at-large spots, defeating KerryJo Felder and Lisa Skjefte.
Lori Norvell won a seat in southeast Minneapolis over Laurelle Myhra. Fathia Feerayarre ran unopposed for the District 3 position, representing the Longfellow and Seward neighborhoods, and Abdul Abdi ran unopposed in District 1 in northeast Minneapolis.