DFL legislator Heather Edelson enters the fray for vacant Hennepin County Board seat

The DFL legislator supported a one cent sales tax increase that went into effect for Hennepin County this month.

DFL Rep. Heather Edelson announced in September that she won't seek a fourth term in the Minnesota House. (Minnesota House Info/YouTube)

A DFL legislator from Edina announced Thursday that she will join a growing field of candidates seeking to win a special election this spring for a vacant seat on the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners.

On Sept. 13, Heather Edelson announced she would not seek a fourth term in the Minnesota House of Representatives. At that time she didn’t indicate she would run for the District 6 seat on the board that governs the state’s largest county (and a budget of more than $2.4 billion).

Her announcement that she would step away from the legislature at the end of her term came just one week before Hennepin County Commissioner Chris LaTondresse officially resigned from his county board seat to run a non-profit housing development organization.

Since then three DFL-allied candidates, and one former Republican legislator, have declared their intention to run for the seat. Edelson’s entry in the race this week means the April 9 non-partisan primary would feature five candidates. The top two voter earners would face off in a general special election on May 14.

Change in election date influenced decision to run, Edelson says

Edelson did not respond to an inquiry last month from Alpha News asking whether she planned to run for county board. But she did say on Thursday that a recent county decision to push the special election date back one month, from April to May, led her to reconsider, and ultimately join the race.

“I was not planning to run for the county board seat, but the election date changed which allows me to finish the 2024 (legislative) session,” Edelson told Alpha News. “If I win, I would have to resign after session ends but would be able to help community members from the county office.”

Edelson joins a field of candidates that features Hopkins School Board member Jen Westmoreland, Edina City Council member Carolyn Jackson, former Minneapolis City Council candidate Alicia Gibson, and former state Rep. Dario Anselmo. Westmoreland, Jackson and Gibson all have a history of actively supporting or donating to DFL candidates for elected office. Westmoreland is in a relationship with Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, and has pledged she will recuse herself from any decisions that personally impact Moriarty. Anselmo represented Edina in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2017 to 2019. He lost his seat to Edelson, the DFL-endorsed challenger, in 2018.

“I have built a name for myself as a representative who seeks good ideas on both sides of the aisle and forges compromises to get things accomplished,” Edelson said in a statement on her campaign website announcing her county board candidacy.

Increasing the state budget by 38 percent

During her five years serving in the legislature, Edelson said much of the work she accomplished at the Capitol overlaps with issues and services the county handles regularly. She cited her advocacy for disability and senior rights and finance, mental health, public safety and environmental issues.

Edelson currently serves as vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees many of the budgetary decisions the DFL majority brought to the House floor last spring, and then passed into law, which increased the state budget by 38 percent.

“This experience working on state policy and finance makes me a unique candidate for the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners,” Edelson said.

Two major financial impacts Edelson had on county residents include her support for a pair of metro-wide sales tax increases that amount to one cent for every dollar spent in Hennepin County.

She voted in favor of omnibus bills passed in the state legislature in May that included a 0.25% sales tax dedicated to public and affordable housing resources for cities and counties, and a new 0.75% sales tax that will go to transportation projects across the metro, with the bulk going to the Metropolitan Council.

Edelson also voted against an amendment to the proposed transit tax specifically that would have given voters the ability to vote the increase up or down as a ballot referendum. The amendment was pushed by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

Even as Edelson is well established in DFL circles, she will have her work cut out for her in earning votes, campaign contributions and endorsements across District 6. The seat includes her home of Edina, along with Eden Prairie, Deephaven, Excelsior, Greenwood, Long Lake, Minnetonka Beach, Mound, Orono, Shorewood, Spring Park, Tonka Bay, Woodland, and Wayzata. In addition to being one of four Edina residents vying for the seat, she is also one of four DFLers in the race.

Last week Edina City Council member Carolyn Jackson announced she has the support of longtime Edina Mayor Jim Hovland, who is considered something of a “kingmaker” among Democrats in the affluent suburb.

Westmoreland is leveraging her connections in progressive activist circles and in her hometown of Hopkins. Gibson, who has never held elected office, has positioned herself as a critic of Moriarty’s tenure as Hennepin County attorney. And Anselmo considers himself a pragmatic problem solver who wants to make fiscal responsibility and public safety top priorities for the county.

Other issues of note that Edelson has advocated for that could impact Hennepin County residents include her support for making Minnesota a ranked choice voting state for all statewide, legislative and congressional offices, and her recent vote to legalize recreational marijuana. She also was a chief sponsor of a bill legalizing low potency hemp edibles, which passed in 2022.


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.