- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Legislature’s trio of black lawmakers is under pressure.

Just three of Minnesota’s 201 legislators are black, and each is facing a Democratic primary challenge ahead of the November election, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/29hZD19 ) reports.

Rep. Rena Moran is the sole black lawmaker in the House, representing St. Paul. Local Black Lives Matter activist Rashad Turner is challenging her for the Democratic party nod for the seat.

Turner argues Moran hasn’t done enough to address racial economic disparities and says a fresh face is needed.

Moran said that she can’t understand why another black candidate wants to unseat her when she is currently the only African-American member in the House.

“To run against the only black member of this body and not try to find a way to add on to this body is a little disheartening,” Moran said.

State senators Bobby Joe Champion and Jeff Hayden are also facing intra-party challengers ahead of the November election.

Patwin Lawrence, a former chair of the Council On Black Minnesotans, is trying to unseat Champion. Lawrence said Champion is not doing enough about disparities.

“For me, it’s not an issue about race, where we want to have more blacks in the Legislature. For me, it’s about whoever can do the job, whether they’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian,” Lawrence said.

Champion rejects Lawrence’s criticisms, and also shared Moran’s concerns about the lack of diversity in the Legislature.

“We have to grow the base, not just go after other people of color,” Champion said. “Sometimes people think it’s easier to go after us, because we’re the low-hanging fruit, right?”

Sen. Jeff Hayden, who’s facing a primary challenge from Mohamoud Hassan, has another theory. He believes familiarity often breeds contempt in certain legislative districts.

“They have a tendency to take what their issues are and their problems and the things that they see going on in society, and they need somebody to try to blame or at least somebody to kind of hold responsible,” Hayden said. “And that often is the person they know the best.”

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org


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