The future with Heather Edelson

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The future with Heather Edelson

Anjali Aralikar, student life beat lead

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Cheers erupted from all sides of the DFL offices when Heather Edelson was elected to be the State Representative of District 49A. This victory stemmed from the previous six months’ tireless door-knocking and phone-banking efforts.

Edelson’s decision to run for office was primarily influenced by her upbringing, which was worlds away from the “comfortable lifestyle” she lives today. “How I grew up had a lot to do with my sense of what justice meant and what advocacy meant and how government can do good and how government can do harm,” Edelson said.

The experiences she had also influence her current stances on issues. Edelson grew up using public transportation giving her an understanding of how vital this system is to the inner city and working-class citizens. As a child, she lived in a single-parent household and benefited from social services like food stamps. Edelson went to school in North Minneapolis where she was one of the few white students in her class. “It gives me a different perspective on what it means to not looks like anyone else,” Edelson said.

Edelson first decided to run for office in 2016. Her first hurdle was against then-incumbent Ron Erhardt for the DFL endorsement. Although she was five votes short of the nomination, Edelson decided to concede. “You know, this is not my time,” she said, regarding her thoughts after the primary.

Edelson doesn’t regret her decision. At the time, Edelson was a young mother who had just learned she had breast cancer. The loss helped her clarify her political stances. “I found out who I was in the process,” Edelson said. “We’re always trying to have bad things not happen to us. But the reality is that struggle in our lives shape and define who we are and we shouldn’t be scared when something goes wrong.”

For the 2018 elections, Edelson doubled down, easily earning the DFL endorsement for District 49A. She and her campaign team, composed of “five, local, Edina, stay-at-home moms,” made the decision to run a positive campaign. “We had enough of partisan politics. We actually wanted to see results,” Edelson said. Her campaign knocked on around 51,000 doors in Edina and ran a digital marketing campaign which pushed the message of working together.

Bipartisanship is important to Edelson, who considers herself a moderate, pro-business Democrat. She doesn’t believe political parties should determine our views. “The reality is: when we hear party, it defines us. I really challenge Edina, and the state of Minnesota and all of us, to do better,” Edelson said. “When you say Democrat, what does that mean? We don’t know!” She believes we should flesh the issues out on our own, keeping an open mind.

Edelson is not the person to blindly sign on to something, either. She plans to read every piece of legislation thoroughly and consider every perspective, especially perspectives from across the aisle. “If I’m going to help make decisions on how to help the Iron Range, I need to know what that community looks like,” Edelson said, regarding her future trip to Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Edelson also wants her constituents to get involved in politics. “I don’t ever want to hear someone say, ‘I don’t know anything about politics, therefore I don’t engage,’” Edelson said. “Politics are about policies that affect people’s lives.” Edelson plans on holding regular town halls with State Senator Melisa Franzen to make sure District 49 knows what’s happening at the State Capitol.

Additionally, she plans to listen to every call and read every email and letter from her constituency. She wants to hear everyone’s perspective, regardless of political party. “When people call my office, I won’t ask if they’re Republican or Democrat—I don’t care,” Edelson said. “I care that they are a constituent of the district I’m representing and I will help them regardless of whether we agree on issues.”

Edelson would also like to engage the younger generation in politics. She implemented her ideas on the campaign trail. Her summer intern program comprised of nearly 40 high school and college students, many of them Edina residents.

Now, as a state legislator, she wants to work with the younger generation to find solutions to issues in education and mental health care. “I want [the younger generation] to know that Heather is the person who always wants us to call her, who wants us to come to the capitol, that values our voice,” Edelson said.

Minnesota’s legislative session begins on Jan. 8th 2019. Edelson looks forward to working with other representatives in creating new legislation. Her main areas of concern are with mental health in schools and closing the achievement gap– the “opportunity gap” as she prefers to call it. Edelson also wants to help pass comprehensive gun control legislation; in fact, she’s hopeful such legislation will get passed very soon.

On Dec. 14, Edelson received an anonymous letter accusing her of choosing her career over her children. The letter goes on to call her a “huge disappointment to those who cast their ballot for [her].” However, Edelson refuses to let these insults deter her. “I realize we’ll have disagreements in on the best path forward for our city and state,” she responded on Facebook. “But please let’s take this moment to be kinder to each other.”

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