Liz Lee celebrates win at an election night party at Destiny Cafe 2 in St. Paul. Credit: Nikhil Kumaran | Sahan Journal

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Democrat Liz Lee was elected Tuesday to represent her home turf—St. Paul’s East Side—in the Minnesota House of Representatives. She’s the first woman and Hmong legislator to represent District 67A.

Lee, 33, received 75 percent of the vote with 91 percent of precincts reporting. Republican candidate Scott Hesselgrave received 25 percent of the vote.

Beverly Peterson, the candidate whom Lee was initially slated to run against, died this August after her victory in the Republican primary, in which she ran unopposed.

Lee has said she’s passionate about supporting working families and advocating for affordable childcare and housing, health equity, funding public schools, and small businesses.

“As long as we center our working-class families—a lot of them are families of color—we will address all these things,” Lee told Sahan Journal in April.

Lee grew up in public housing on St. Paul’s East Side with her parents and four siblings. She was enrolled in Saint Paul Public Schools, and her first job was delivering the community paper, the “Eastside Review.”

“The East Side has always been about welcoming immigrants, refugees, and new folks to the community,” Lee has said. “I thought it was really important to have a new voice to advocate for everybody on the East Side.”

Just as her connection to the East Side runs deep, so does her involvement in politics. Lee previously told Sahan Journal that she has helped people register to vote since she was 10 years old. 

Come January, Lee will unseat Independent John Thompson, whom she readily defeated in both the primary in August and the bid for DFL endorsement in March.

Lee is a first-time candidate, and worked on Capitol Hill for about 10 years after graduating from Yale University. She first worked as a congressional staffer for Senator Amy Klobuchar, and then as an aide for former Representative Barbara Lee. She was also a staffer for Attorney General Keith Ellison for two years when he was a representative; he endorsed her run for the Minnesota House.

​​“She listens. She doesn’t need to be the one talking,” Ellison told Sahan Journal in April. “She seems like she would rather hear what someone else’s story is, and I can tell you, she’s taking all that in and she’s going to do something about it.”

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Noor Adwan was an intern at Sahan Journal. She is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Minnesota.