What will likely be a closely watched and heavily funded special election contest this spring for an open seat on the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners was shaken up in recent days as two of six announced candidates have now dropped out of the race.
Late last month Edina City Councilmember Carolyn Jackson informed her supporters she would be suspending her campaign for the District 6 seat on the county board just a month after she announced she was running. Since then, Jackson has taken down her campaign website and deleted her campaign social media accounts. That came following a decision by soon-to-be retired DFL legislator Heather Edelson to enter the race for the county board seat that represents Edina, Hopkins, Eden Prairie and a number of Lake Minnetonka communities. Both Edelson and Jackson live in Edina. In 2018, they competed for the DFL endorsement to represent Edina in the state House of Representatives.
“As I reach out to members of our community, I find too many of you conflicted as to whom to support,” Jackson said in a statement. “My primary goal is centered around community building. I entered this race to serve, not to divide. So, consistent with that value, I am stepping aside.”
In September, Edelson announced she wouldn’t seek a fourth term in the state House. She told Alpha News in October that when she announced her decision to leave the legislature after her term is up next year, she did not have plans to run for county board. But those plans changed when the date for the special election was pushed from March to April.
“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.”
Since then, both Jackson and Edina resident Alicia Gibson have withdrawn their respective candidacies for the county board seat that became vacant in September with the resignation of Chris LaTondresse. Competition for endorsements from among kingmakers inside the district has been fierce. Jackson had announced in October that her Edina City Councilmate, Mayor Jim Hovland, was supporting her campaign. But Hovland, a heavily influential politician inside DFL circles in Edina, has now endorsed Edelson.
Gibson bowed out of the race for county board just days after Edelson announced she was jumping in the race. Then, in November, Gibson announced she would seek the DFL endorsement for House District 50A, which represents a large portion of Edina and Bloomington. Gibson has been an outspoken critic of Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, and just last week announced she has received endorsements for her fledgling legislative campaign from former Moriarty opponents Ryan Winkler and Martha Holton Dimick.
So who is staying in the race for county board?
Moriarty’s partner Jen Westmoreland has been running a very active campaign for the seat since announcing her launch in September. And former Republican legislator Dario Anselmo is also running. While updated campaign finance reports have not yet been reported for the race, a September filing by Westmoreland shows one of her very first donors was her partner, Moriarty. Social media activity by the Westmoreland and Edelson campaigns makes it clear they are competing for donors and endorsements from among overlapping Democrat circles. Anselmo hasn’t been as publicly visible on social media hustling for donations. His social media campaigning has focused mainly on messaging around public safety, mental health and taxation.
A special election primary for the seat will be held on April 9. The top two voter earners will face off in a general special election on May 14.
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.