Erin Maye Quade celebrates her DFL primary win with her newborn, Harriet, and her father. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

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Erin Maye Quade won her DFL primary race Tuesday for a south suburban Twin Cities Senate seat against Justin Emmerich, a legislative assistant in the Senate.

Maye Quade made national headlines in April when she went into labor with her daughter, Harriet, during a speech seeking the DFL endorsement for the seat. The endorsement went to Emmerich, whom Maye Quade decided to take on in the primary.

Maye Quade, 36, of Apple Valley, is one of the five Black women running for seats in the state Senate. If any of them wins in November, they will be the first Black women elected to the Senate. 

“This has been a campaign of our community and I am not doing this alone,” Maye Quade said at her election party from an event center in Rosemount.

Maye Quade, who served one term in the Minnesota House, will face Republican Jim Bean in the November 8 general election to determine who will be senator for District 56, which covers Apple Valley and parts of Rosemount and Eagan. The winner in the newly reconfigured district will succeed three-term DFL Senator Greg Clausen.

Emmerich, 29, of Apple Valley, campaigned on the promise to ensure livable wages and paid family leave. Additionally, he vowed to put more money into recruiting and retaining police officers and first responders.

With almost all but one of the 24 precincts counted, Maye Quade appeared to have won the primary decisively, with 65 percent of the vote to Emmerich’s 35 percent.

At an election-night party, campaign supporter Demitrea Kelley, 34, said she voted for Erin Maye Quade because of the candidate’s strong stance on reproductive rights. “Erin is amazing,” Kelley said. “Everyone loves Erin. Everyone is very supportive of all of her priorities.”

Ayana Smith-Kooiman, a 22-year-old campaign worker, echoed that enthusiasm. “I am feeling great,” Smith-Kooiman said. “I can’t even put into words how happy I am. Erin definitely deserves to win.”

Erin Maye Quade celebrates winning the DFL primary race at the Meeting Point in Rosemount, MN on Aug. 9 2022. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

Running as a champion of reproductive rights

While Emmerich claimed the DFL endorsement, Maye Quade cited her deeper experience in politics.

“Unlike my opponent, I’ve actually authored bills, and passed them into law,” Maye Quade said during her campaign. “I’ve won an election, served as an elected official. I have a demonstrated record of organizing.” 

During her 2017–2019 term as a state House representative, Maye Quade wrote bills to increase funding for public schools and special education. She also founded Minnesota’s Childhood Hunger Caucus. 

Maye Quade’s experience of going into labor during her endorsement convention speech led to national conversations about the value of formal party endorsements and misogyny in politics. 

“I think if it had been another person who’d had a different medical emergency like a heart attack or a seizure … there would have been a lot more empathy,” she said.

Maye Quade, who leads the reproductive justice advocacy group UnRestrict Minnesota and is advocacy director for the gender equity group Gender Justice, ran as a champion of reproductive rights. 

Her win came six weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, leaving each state to determine abortion access. 

“A big one is protecting reproductive rights,” Maye Quade said. “That includes getting advanced-practice clinicians trained and ready to provide. It means making sure that patients and providers in the state are not prosecuted from other states.”

If she wins in November, Maye Quade says she will also work for job creation and single-payer healthcare.

Aarushi Sen is an intern at Sahan Journal. She is a journalism and political science student at the University of Minnesota.