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Incumbent Linda Higgins and challenger Sheree Breedlove meet again in the north Downtown district
It will be round three for two candidates when they square off on Election Day in the race for the District 58 state Senate seat.
For the third time, two-term DFL incumbent Sen. Linda Higgins will face challenger Sheree Breedlove, the Independence Party candidate who has twice campaigned for the same seat -- in 1996 as a Democrat, and in 2000 under the Independence Party banner.
A third candidate, Jeff Scott, a North Minneapolis businessman and moderate Republican, also is running on a platform that includes affordable housing, jobs, education reform and improved healthcare.
The district covers Downtown north of 7th Street and lies mostly in north Minneapolis.
Higgins, who easily staved off a primary challenge, said that she can't afford to take her seat for granted, given that a Green Party candidate from the district (Natalie Johnson Lee) now sits on the Minneapolis City Council.
"I do expect to win," said Higgins, 51. "I'm confident, but not overconfident."
Breedlove has fared poorly in her two previous runs at Higgins. She earned 11 percent of the vote in the infamous 1996 DFL primary, in which Higgins beat long-time North Minneapolis DFL fixture John Derus by only 104 votes -- the same day that a local newspaper ran a photo of Derus under a headline about charities fraud. In another three-way race in 2000, Breedlove took 20 percent.
But Breedlove isn't fazed. "I wouldn't say she is a heavy favorite," Breedlove said of Higgins. "She's just endorsed by the DFL."
Rooted in the district
Breedlove, 48, grew up in North Minneapolis and attended West High School. Her father was a construction foreman and 60-year union member; her mother worked in the Hennepin County personnel department. She remembers being infected by the political bug as a girl in the 1960s, when her uncle Cozy Breedlove ran unsuccessfully for Minneapolis City Council.
She earned an associate's degree from the Medical Institute of Minnesota and began a career working as a lab technician. She also raised two boys, now in their 20s, as a single mom. In the 1980s, she entered DFL party politics, first as a delegate, eventually rising to co-chair of the Hennepin County DFL.
She ran unsuccessfully as a DFL candidate for school board in the early 1990s, choosing to forge ahead without the party's endorsement. That move, she now thinks, cost her points with the party. In the mid-1990s, she switched parties, first to the Reform Party, later the Independence Party.
"I felt I lost the connection with the DFL party when I felt that it wasn't OK to disagree," Breedlove said. "I think it's healthy and OK to disagree."
Breedlove, who is African-American, pushes issues including low-income housing, crime and education.
She pledged to work to make more housing available to the poor and to improve the juvenile truancy system to make kids more accountable. She wants to make more home loan counseling programs available. And she would push to make disabled children part of the regular classroom setting, rather than being segregated into special education programs, saying everyone benefits from bringing kids together.
Breedlove said her ties to her district are stronger than Higgins'.
"I was born and raised here, and I feel I have a connection on those grounds," she said. "And I'm a people person. Therefore I feel that if anyone can tackle major issues that face my district, it could be me."
The farmer's daughter
Higgins grew up the daughter of Iowa farmers and moved to Minneapolis in 1973. She earned a teaching degree from Mankato State University but strayed into publishing as a writer and editor, eventually forming her own company.
Over the years, she worked her way through the state DFL party system, assisting in a number of other candidates' campaigns and working as an assistant to City Councilmember Joe Biernat (3rd Ward) for three years. She decided to run for office herself in 1996, successfully targeting the Senate in her first try.
Asked to point to her political successes, Higgins mentions the bill she authored last year to regulate phosphorus in lawn fertilizer; it was the only successful environmental legislation of the session. She also points to her bill to fund the Downtown planetarium (it was vetoed) and her support of the Guthrie Theater. She said she helped author a bill to fund Shubert Theater renovations, but withdrew it when it became clear that another arts bill had no chance of passage.
Higgins thinks voters will again cast their vote her way because of her legislative record.
"I've been gaining good experience in my two terms in the Minnesota Senate in learning how to get significant legislation passed and good working relationships with my colleagues," she said. "I have brought home significant resources for my district."
She added: "I believe they will vote for me because they understand that it's a difficult job that takes a while to have an effect, and I've been able to do that very quickly in my first two terms."
GOP candidate Scott did not return phone calls for this story.
Sheree Breedlove Neighborhood: Willard-Hay Occupation: Lab technician Party: Independence Endorsements: Independence Party Education: Associate of Science, Medical Institute of Minnesota (now Argosy University) Family: Single parent, two boys, 20 and 25, two granddaughters Phone: 521-9756 Address: 2331 Penn Ave. N., 55411 E-mail: None Web: None
Linda Higgins Neighborhood: Near North Occupation: State senator, writer Party: DFL Endorsements: DFL, 16 union endorsements, Teachers, NARAL, Abortion Rights Council. Education: B.S. teaching degree Mankato State University, three public policy fellowships Family: Single, no kids Phone: 522-2776 Mailing address: 1715 Emerson Ave. N., 55411 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.senatorlinda.com