Seven female political candidates are currently fighting tooth and nail to become the first Black woman to serve in the Minnesota Senate. In November, Zuki Ellis, Marla Helseth, Huldah Hiltsley, Farhio Khalif, Erin Maye Quade, Zaynab Mohamed, and Clare Oumou Verbete will face off for a chance to make history.
The candidates are largely Democrats except for Helseth, who is the only Republican campaigning in the competitive race.
“I hope it does lead the way and open the door for others to run,” she told Kare 11 about the historical moment. “It would be wonderful if I were to be the first Black female senator, however, I don’t want people to vote for me only because I’m Black,” she clarified. “I want them to be an informed voter.”
Helseth, a substitute teacher in the Minnesota school system, has put a strong emphasis on expanding educational resources for students across the Twin Cities. She has also promised to restore public safety.
Hiltsley, who is running against former City Council Liaison Susan Pha in District 38, is confident that a Black woman will win the coveted seat. For the Kenyan-American-bred politician, running in the campaign is historic for many reasons.
“For the longest time, I didn’t see myself in politics … and I think a part of it was because I didn’t see myself in there. I didn’t see someone I could relate to, I could connect with,” said Hiltsley, who has formed a sisterhood with her fellow running mates. “Regardless of what happens…we are all proud of the work that we’ve put in.”
The Bethel University graduate has spent her career in politics fighting for equity and opportunities for residents living throughout the Brooklyn and Osseo area. Hiltsley has vowed to prioritize affordable housing and increase homeownership within her district which has some of the lowest homeownership rates among communities of color, according to her campaign website.
Another notable candidate fighting to make history in the Minnesota Senate is Zuki Ellis, who serves on the Minnesota School Board. During her tenure, she worked tirelessly to hire, train and retain teachers with career-advancing resources and competitive hourly wages. In 2018, Ellis helped to pass the school funding referendum that ensured every district employee earned at least $15 an hour. She’s also helping to mandate SPPS’s Gender Inclusion Policy across student and staff protocol for schools.
Although all of the incredible women represent different districts, anyone could win a seat in the Minnesota Senate come election season. It could be very well possible that more than one of the legendary candidates will win.
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