Minnesota Lt. Governor Candidates Differ on Issues, but Agree on Historic Moment

August 15, 2018 10:21 PM

The two women running for lieutenant governor in Minnesota - the DFL's Peggy Flanagan and Republican Donna Bergstrom - may disagree on issues facing the state.

But the two find common ground when it comes to the importance of either becoming the first Native American to serve in that office.


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"I take that responsibility really seriously," said Flanagan, the running mate of U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, the winner in Tuesday's DFL gubernatorial primary.

"I'm really excited to be a small part of that wave of Native women candidates."

Flanagan is a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and currently serves as a member of the Native American Caucus in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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Bergstrom, meanwhile, is running with Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the winner on the Republican side Tuesday, upsetting former governor Tim Pawlenty.

"I really appreciative of being on the top of the ticket, knowing that I'm making part of history," Bergstrom said. "Honestly, I'm proud of my heritage. My mom was born and raised on the Red Lake Reservation."

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Bergstrom is a member of the Red Lake Nation, who also served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves - retiring at the rank of Lt. Colonel.

Federal data shows roughly 1.4 percent of Minnesota's population is Native American.

Flanagan said she and Walz have visited 10 of the 11 tribal governments in the state.

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"Our job is to make sure we are listening to those leaders and have a government-to-government relationship," she said. "There is a deep understanding of treaty rights and tribal sovereignty."

Bergstrom said her experiences will help shape a government for all Minnesotans.

"Our message to you...we're going to represent you," Bergstrom said. "I certainly hope people can connect with that."

While their politics are different, both candidates agree this moment could inspire others to run.

"That's really the best part of it - to let people know that they can do it," Bergstrom said.  

Flanagan recalled a young Ojibwe girl she saw in the crowd at a campaign stop.

"She sees another Native woman, running for office," Flanagan said. "That's pretty cool."



Eric Chaloux

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