Most of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation is new. Change was a big theme in the 2018 election, and the state is sending five new members to the U.S. House. Getting ready to go to Washington has been described as fascinating, exciting, surreal, extraordinary, and as a rollercoaster by the freshmen federal lawmakers in our interviews. Some of them are making history.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-5th Dist. MN) is the first Somali-American elected to Congress and she plans to bring her perspective as a refugee to help personalize the divisive issue: “My parents made the choice to travel in the middle of night without water and food, they knew if we stayed, we would certainly die. To risk everything meant some of us might survive.”
Congresswoman Angie Craig (D-2nd Dist. MN) is the first openly gay member of Congress to win office in the state. She won a largely suburban seat that had been held by a Republican and says, “When I represent my district, I can’t just represent Democrats, I have to listen to everybody, and be decent and civil and respectful of everyone’s views, and that’s what I intend to do.”
Democrats also flipped another suburban seat in the west metro by running a unique campaign focused on convening conversations and in which they travelled in a vintage truck that represented the last time a Democrat held the seat. We asked Congressman Dean Phillips (D-3rd Dist. MN ) “What’s life like right now?” He responded, “I don’t have one. It’s fascinating, I’m so humbled, [there’s] so much to learn. The last few weeks have been some of the most remarkable ones of my life.”
Republicans flipped two rural seats in southern and northern Minnesota. Congressman Jim Hagedorn (R-1st Dist. MN) has worked in the nation’s capital before, and his father served in the same seat decades ago. “He was elected 44 years ago, after Watergate. He was the only new Republican elected that year.” He recently wed State Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan, ushering in personal and professional change all at once. Former hockey player and police officer will also become Congressman Pete Stauber (R-8th Dist. MN). He sees going to Washington as “an opportunity for those of us entering congress to make a change, to change that divisiveness in politics.”