Maria Isa Pérez-Hedges Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

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Artist and activist María Isa Pérez-Hedges handily won election to the Minnesota House of Representatives Tuesday.  

Pérez-Hedges, a DFLer, earned 78 percent of the vote to represent District 65B, which includes downtown St. Paul, the West Side of St. Paul, and parts of West St. Paul. Her Republican opponent, Kevin Fjelsted, earned 21 percent of the vote with 91 percent of precincts reporting.

Pérez-Hedges spent years as an activist focused on affordable health care and youth advocacy, but decided to run for office when redistricting resulted in multiple Latina state lawmakers announcing their retirement. Pérez-Hedges first announced a run for state Senate before shifting to a House seat when longtime incumbent Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, announced his retirement. 

Pérez-Hedges is a lifelong Minnesota resident of Puerto Rican descent whose district includes St. Paul’s large West Side Latino community. She is the daughter of Elsa Vega-Pérez, the first Latina appointed to the Minnesota Office of Equal Opportunity. Her childhood included a robust political education that inspired her to work in policy, she said. 

“I happened to be hearing everything that was going into that policy work when I was in the womb,” Pérez-Hedges told Sahan Journal earlier this year. 

Pérez-Hedges, a longtime performing musical artist and the owner of production company, SotaRico, returned to her political roots when she began organizing relief for Puerto Rico after Hurricane María in 2018. She then went through the Wilder Foundation’s Community Equity Program, a sort of boot camp for Minnesotans of color who want to get involved in local politics. 

As a type-one diabetic, she was heavily involved with organizing around Minnesota’s Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, which capped 90-day insulin supply co-pays at $50. 

Pérez-Hedges ran on a platform that included support for a guaranteed statewide health care program, increased education funding for English language learning and early childhood education, and increased investment in affordable and public housing. 

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Latina lawmakers and political candidates raise concerns about their place in state politics as redistricting poses new challenges

Maria Isa Pérez-Hedges is making a run for the Minnesota House as Latina lawmakers in the Senate face new roadblocks due to redistricting. DFL Caucus Leader Senator Melisa López Franzen chose not to run for reelection after redistricting placed her in the same district as fellow DFL Senator Ron Latz, a long-time incumbent with history in the area. The changes lead some lawmakers to wonder about the future of Latino representation in the Senate.

Andrew Hazzard is a staff reporter with Sahan Journal who focuses on climate change and environmental justice issues. After starting his career in daily newspapers in Mississippi and North Dakota, Andrew...