House District 41B candidates talk education and program funding

The House of Representatives District 41B race is between a DFL incumbent and a longtime campaigner trying to take the seat this time as an independent.

In 2016, Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein won with 63 percent of the vote over Republican Camden Pike. This year the one-term incumbent’s challenger is Tim Utz, who has run for the seat as a Republican and Constitution Party candidate. Utz is back for the this year’s campaign as an independent. 

District 41B encompasses southern New Brighton, St. Anthony, Columbia Heights and Hilltop. 

The candidates answered questions via email including why they are running, what skills and experiences they will bring to office, what they believe to be the top challenges the district and state face and what issues or projects they would prioritize if elected.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

 

Kunesh-Podein, 57, finishes her first term this year. She is a library media specialist at Robbinsdale Middle School and lives in New Brighton with her husband Tim. 

Kunesh-Podein received a master’s degree in information media from St. Cloud State University. She said she has gained skills through more than two decades experience as a public school educator, three years as co-manager and co-founder of the New Brighton Farmers Market, two years as the founding member of the People of Color Indigenous and Native American Caucus in the House, and her two years as representative.  

“I want to return to our Capitol to continue to work on behalf of our communities,” said Kunesh-Podein. She said she is running to continue her environmental stewardship, her championing of the education system and to build an equitable district and state.

In a “time of generation shifts” in which seniors wish to simplify their lives and young families are ready to regenerate the community, said Kunesh-Podein, “affordable housing has become a serious issue.”

She said economic development is another challenge for the district. “The future of our cities must focus on development where people want to do business within a strong social fabric where relationships are deep and are durable over the long term,” said Kunesh-Podein.

Placing community values at the forefront of her discussions and decisions, she said, would be her priority if re-elected. 

Kunesh-Podein said district communities value accessible and affordable health care, a first-class education guarantee, making higher education and job training a reality, fully funded transportation, and safety. 

 

Utz, 60, is a non-residential construction superintendent. He lives in Columbia Heights with his wife Nadine. 

Utz has taken union trade courses in construction. He said he has skills gained from experience as a construction supervisor on multi-million dollar projects and crews with more than 100 people, as well as experience in community, public service and political activities.  

In 2004, Utz began visiting the Capitol every year to give testimony at legislative committee hearings and observe the process. “I was dumbfounded watching legislators voting for each other on bills,” he said.

Utz said “basically there’s only one issue” plaguing the district — “the never-ending growth of more government regulation, rules, law, encroachment of liberty, mandates, inspections, statutes to create a perfect society.” He said the formation of such a society requires taxes collected across the community. 

“The Founding Fathers warned of such a day as we have become, instituted checks and balances that limited the power and authority of government while providing the necessary civil framework for our society. Ignoring these restrictions every year, the GOP and DFL collaborate for more government and associated taxes to pay for such,” said Utz. 

He honed in on the judiciary as his top priority, calling it a “rogue agency mandating law from the bench.” He said he wants to address legislative powers to control “abusive justices.” He said keeping legislative peers accountable to the oath of defending the constitution is a goal. 

“I recognize this is an ambitious goal, at least starting the conversation requires an independent, outside the GOP and DFL, member of the Legislature,” said Utz, adding infrastructure for the near north metro, and making it a “place to be,” as other priorities. 

 

For more information about voting, go to www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting.

 

-Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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