First-Time Republican Candidate Tries to Make History in DFL Stronghold

October 25, 2018 11:21 AM

The sun was going down over downtown Minneapolis Wednesday and Lacy Johnson was headed to a campaign stop - part of his run for the State House seat in District 59B.

“I saw a lot of suffering in our community, specifically North Minneapolis where I’ve been living for over 30 years,” Johnson said.


“I got to the point in my life where I wouldn't feel good unless I tried to do something about it.”

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That’s why Johnson, an engineer who has worked with at-risk youth, decided to run as a Republican in a district that stretches from downtown to North Minneapolis

If elected, Johnson would be the first African-American Republican state representative in more than a century, according to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.

According to the list the reference library compiled, of the 5,283 legislators past and present, only 13 total have been African-American (self-identified or identified in a newspaper or book).  

That's just two-tenths of one percent in more than 150 years. Though an entry above the list acknowledges it may be incomplete.

"I guess (I think) immediately (of) a quote form President Kennedy," Johnson said. "When he said 'We choose to go to the moon this decade not because it's easy, but because it hard.'

 "I like hard challenges. I like the challenge of it."

And District 59B represents a challenge. It has traditionally been a DFL stronghold.

"People see it's not working," Johnson said. "People know the main issue. 'I just don't have enough economic resources that I’m stressing to pay the rent, to buy food,' and things like that."  

Johnson said tax breaks for new businesses that move into North Minneapolis are a key to his campaign. So are education opportunities, and criminal justice reform.

"Especially in the African American community, they are pretty smart, they know - we got to put this family back together along with creating wealth," Johnson said.

His opponent Raymond Dehn and a few volunteers spent the early evening knocking on doors on the 1500 block of Park in Minneapolis Wednesday.

“I'm someone who was able to come through life circumstances that give me a unique perspective of many of them deal with," Dehn said.

Dehn, an architect who has worked as a community organizer on the north side, is trying to return to a seat he’s held for three terms.

He said the area he wants to focus on most is increasing economic opportunity in the area.

“I think economic opportunity, economic opportunity is a thing that has a huge impact on people's lives," Dehn said. “We find 80 percent of the people born in poverty stay in poverty.”

Dehn said closing the wealth gap in the district is key. So is affordable housing, along with an issue he’s championed before - restoring voting rights.

"All those citizens in public working, you know running families, whether on supervision for probation or parole, that they have a right to vote," Dehn said.

For more information on the two candidates, visit their websites online:

Raymond Dehn 

Lacy Johnson 


Eric Chaloux

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