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There never has been a Black woman in the Minnesota Senate. Five DFL candidates and one Republican candidate running for office in November are trying to change that.  

As candidates kick off their campaigns for primary elections on August 9 and the general elections on November 8, they are offering Minnesotans a chance to make history by electing not just one Black woman state senator —but up to four more. 

  • Huldah Hiltsley is a data privacy analyst running in District 38 (formerly District 40)
  • Marla Helseth is a former model and restaurant manager running in District 49*
  • Erin Maye Quade is a former state representative running in District 56 (formerly District 57)
  • Zaynab Mohamed is a community activist and policy aide running in District 63
  • Zuki Ellis is a St. Paul Public Schools board member running in District 65
  • Clare Oumou Verbeten is a equity manager for the City of St. Paul running in District 66

Delegates at the senate district DFL conventions on March 26 will select candidates to endorse for the state races. A DFL endorsement could make a historic win more likely for the Black women running to be state senators. The DFL candidate who wins the primary election will move on to run against Republican candidates in the general election.

Sahan Journal asked these six Black women about what it would mean to be part of a historic cohort of incoming elected officials, as well as their hopes for office, especially as their constituents continue to navigate a pandemic. In the midst of the strike by Minneapolis educators, the candidates also discussed how they plan to address education funding. The DFL candidates also shared how they plan to engage their Republican colleagues, as well as constituents who come from immigrant communities and communities of color. The candidates range in background and work experiences. Two candidates, Zaynab and Oumou Verbeten, are in their twenties and could become the youngest women to join the Minnesota Senate. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity.

*UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect responses from additional candidates and new redistricting information.

Hibah Ansari is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.