Why Minnesota’s longest-serving lawmaker is fighting for her political life

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Rep. Phyllis Kahn door knocking in the Seward neighborhood.

These days, DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn is telling other Democrats she needs help.

On paper, Kahn, 77, is a shoo-in to be re-elected to represent the same left-leaning Minneapolis House District she’s represented for the last 42 years. For a lot of Democrats, it doesn’t make sense why Kahn — who won her last race with more than 77 percent of the vote — would need extra help this time, whether with donations or boots on the ground.

“I tell them, ‘That’s what Eric Cantor said,’ ” Kahn said. Like Cantor, the former U.S. House majority leader who lost in a primary earlier this year, Kahn is facing a challenge from inside her own party — DFL Somali activist and Minneapolis School Board member Mohamud Noor.

It’s not Kahn’s first primary challenge in her four decades in the House, but it’s certainly her toughest in recent memory. Noor’s ability to energize and organize the district’s Somali community has Kahn’s supporters worried, especially in a low-turnout primary election. And the race has been contentious from the beginning. In February, a precinct caucus meeting in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood broke out in in violence over the race. And in April, Noor successfully blocked Kahn from getting the DFL endorsement. 

“[Noor] has a base in the Somali community, and that helps him a great deal,” said longtime DFL activist and former Hennepin County Board Chair John Derus, who is supporting Noor. “But Phyllis is a wise politician, and people have counted her out before.”

Noor pushes education issues 

Many have compared the race to last fall’s campaign for the newly drawn Ward 6 Minneapolis City Council seat, which Somali activist Abdi Warsame won thanks to an impressive organizing effort, unseating longtime incumbent DFL Council member Robert Lilligren.

But House District 60B is different. Unlike Ward 6, its boundaries stretch far beyond Somali communities, and include areas like Nicollet Island, Prospect Park, Marcy Holmes and the University of Minnesota.

Noor, 36, is a relative newcomer to politics, and he knows he needs to make his name known with all the major constituencies in the district — Somali Americans, students and seniors. That’s what he was doing on a hot summer day in July, knocking on doors in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Mohamud Noor, center, door knocking in Seward with R.T. Rybak.
MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Mohamud Noor, center, door knocking in Seward with former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

Few people recognized Noor when he greeted voters at the doors, though he did have help from a more familiar face — former mayor R.T. Rybak. “You’re the bike-riding mayor!” one man said they approached him on the street, which gave Rybak a window to launch into his pitch for Noor. “He has a very unique ability to listen and then act,” Rybak said, handing the man a flyer. “This is a big and complex district, and Mohamud can tie all those pieces together.”

Noor needed the help. He was near the end of a month of fasting as part of Ramadan, and he hadn’t been sleeping much, either. Noor has made education a centerpiece of his campaign, and as he greeted people at their front doors, he talked mostly about the importance of early education and right-sizing classrooms, an issue he said has been “mostly ignored in the district.”

One resident noted that Kahn was “visually powerful” in the neighborhood, but quietly listened to his pitch. “I’m glad you stopped by,” she said after Noor finished. “I would have voted for Phyllis otherwise.” 

Democrats, Somali community divided 

Both candidates are doing everything they can to get their voters out to the polls on August 12, Election Day, but the campaigns have also been pushing harder to get people to cast their ballots early. Last session, legislators passed a proposal that allows anyone to vote absentee ahead of time. Previously, voters had to have an excuse to cast their ballots early.

As of Thursday, 1,285 absentee votes had been accepted — but not counted — so far, according to Hennepin County election officials.  There are about 22,000 registered voters in the district, though both campaigns predict only about 3,000 people will show up to vote in a summer primary. If that’s true, that means nearly half of the ballots have already been cast in the race, and the Noor campaign believes most of those are for him.

But Kahn’s campaign has been pushing early voting as well, largely thanks to the help of Warsame’s organizing force. His support for Kahn — who backed him in his City Council bid — has fractured the Minneapolis’ Somali Community and siphoned off support from Noor.

Early voting sparked a brief controversy in the race last month, when Kahn attorney Brian Rice accused the Noor campaign of having a hand in improperly registering more than 100 voters at a single mailbox address in Cedar Riverside. Hennepin County elections officials said there was no sign of organized election fraud, but they ordered the residents to re-register at their proper address.

The incident spooked many Somali voters in the district, who were afraid they would be accused of trying to illegally vote, activists said. But anger from Democrats over Rice’s knee-jerk allegations of voter fraud has also given a boost to the Noor campaign, said campaign spokesman Benjamin Fribley, and more Democrats have been working quietly behind the scenes for Noor since the complaint. 

“I think the way her campaign handled it lent some credibility to our campaign,” he said. “It’s galvanized progressives.” In another complaint in the race, the state Supreme Court sided with Kahn’s campaign, which alleged a Minneapolis election judge supported Noor and asked early voters if they wanted to cast their ballot for “our Somali brother” or the “old Jewish lady.” 

Both candidates can tout major supporters in the race, dividing usually tightly aligned DFL forces. In addition to Warsame, Kahn has the backing of Gov. Mark Dayton, 5th District U.S. Representative Keith Ellison and the district’s state senator, Kari Dziedzic. Noor has the support of Stonewall DFL and OutFront Minnesota, Minnesota Young DFL and DFL Sen. Patricia Torres Ray.

Yet the DFL Party’s Somali American Caucus has yet to endorse in the race. Abdikadir Hassan, chair of the group, said the divisions in both the party and Somali community has made it awkward to give the group’s blessing to either candidate. “It is an important race in the community as a whole, and it feels good to have the spotlight on how we can better represent the Somali community,” he said.

No Eric Cantor

At her home on Nicollet Island, Kahn was busy making sure no one can compare her to Cantor, a powerful politician who lost touch with his district.

She fed campaign volunteers grapes — not expensive steak dinners, like Cantor — and offered them coffee and water before they headed out to knock on doors. When they got back, they could crack open a bottle of Rosé, Kahn offered, or take some eggs home from the two-dozen chickens she has in her backyard. 

Several volunteers were former or current students at the University of Minnesota, where Kahn has always enjoyed a lot of support. But few expect the empty summer dormitories to produce many voters in the primary, which has made door knocking in other parts of the district critical. A few Democrats came out to help get out the vote, including Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins and fellow DFL Rep. Frank Hornstein.

Volunteers picked up old red campaign signs worn from previous races and put blue tape over the words “DFL-endorsed” — so they could keep using them. Kahn has raised more than $38,000 for the race, but has also spent most of it, and has personally loaned her campaign $4,500.

Kahn hit the doors too, and the first person she talked to in the Seward neighborhood recognized that she had been a scientist by trade — Kahn earned her bachelor’s degree in biophysics at Cornell and her doctorate at Yale. That’s one of Kahn’s main pitches for herself — not a lot of people work on science issues in state legislatures anymore.

“I’m one of the few people in the Legislature here with a science background,” Kahn told the voter. “People often ask me if I miss science, but I say no, I can’t sit still for that long anymore.”

Science is what got Kahn into politics in the first place. She was studying DNA samples at the University of Minnesota in the early 1970s when the dean told her her research contract had been cut off. She was in the middle of a discrimination lawsuit against the university for not putting her on the same track for tenure as her male colleagues when she decided to run for a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

She won. And in the years since, Kahn has established a reputation in the Legislature for taking positions not advocated by many others. She was the chief author of one of the first indoor smoking bans enacted anywhere in the world, and she has repeatedly pushed for repeal of the Sunday liquor sales ban.

“She’s been for progressive changes and real progressive policies long before they were popular — that’s my definition of leadership and that’s what I want in a legislator,” said Peter McLauglin, a Hennepin County commissioner and supporter of Kahn. “Whenever there’s a challenge you gotta pay attention, and she’s paying attention. She’s out there and working hard. She’s not taking this seat for granted.” 

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (53)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/04/2014 - 10:12 am.

    The same people who mock Michele Bachmann for being wacky see no problem in voting for Kahn.

    I always get a kick out of that….but I digress.

    There are always people that fight change, who fear the unknown, but Minneapolis has changed. It’s time to let Phyllis tend to her chickens, and it’s time for old, white leftists to lay down their biases and embrace diversity.

  2. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 08/04/2014 - 10:37 am.

    I actually agree with Tom

    I understand the Bachmann-Kahn comparison and I find them both “wacky”.

    Of course, I also get a kick out an old white conservative lecturing the Left on diversity, but I digress.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 08/04/2014 - 04:06 pm.

      Bachmann

      Kahn has her eccentricities, but the comparison to Bachmann is a poor one. Kahn is someone who knows how to get things done in the legislature and been responsible for some very significant legislation. Bachmann has accomplished zero legislatively.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/05/2014 - 01:41 pm.

        It’s true that Bachmann hasn’t gotten many bills passed, but that’s not unusual for someone in the minority. She has certainly sponsored plenty:

        https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/browse?sponsor=412216

        I think Kahn’s 12 year olds suffrage crusade stacks up very nicely on the kooky scale against Bachmann’s light bulb activism.

        • Submitted by Nancy Gertner on 08/08/2014 - 02:01 pm.

          Minority Status #NotaValidExcuse for Not Being a Legislator

          While Rep. Bachmann took the oath of office the month (January 2006) John Boehner handed the Speaker’s gavel to Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Bachmann has not served her entire tenure in a minority status, so that should not be an excuse for her lack of legislative achievement. It’s next to impossible to get your legislation passed if you refuse to sign on as co-sponsor to (most) legislation with a Democratic author and insist, instead, or having your own “conservative” version of the bill with your right-wing congressional buddies, who are not very effective at getting others to co-sponsor their bills. Conversely, the ultra-conservative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina recently had her photo taken with President Obama, wearing a bright pink suit while the Jobs Bill she authored was signed by the Democratic President. Proving that a House Republican (Majority Member) can get bi-partisan support for a bill passed by Congress with a Senate Democratic Majority and a Democratic President.

  3. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/04/2014 - 10:55 am.

    I Khan’t take it anymore

    Ms. Kahn’s disgraceful NIMBY actions over the DeLaSalle football field sealed her fate with me. She enjoys a lifetime lease living on park board land and the same actions that gave her this also allowed for the football field. Because DeLaSalle did not have the cash to build the field for twenty years, Ms. Kahn did her best to stop it when they could finally afford it. Take a look at what was built: A very nice green space and what was removed: run down tennis courts and a little used road and you have to wonder how she could be so out of touch. 42 Years of power gets a person that way. Time to retire her and time for the park board to end private leaseholds on public land. A nice piece of parkland on the North end of Nicollet Island.

  4. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 08/04/2014 - 11:23 am.

    Lori Sturdevant, a seasoned and sharply analytical editorial page writer for the Star Tribune, had a Sunday piece that compared what Noor said to the Strib about his goal (“representing” [a certain demographic] rather than being a legislator) with Phyllis Kahn’s stellar legislative record. People should read it; they would be reminded of what it means to be in the state legislature and actually getting something done.

    Phyllis Kahn has kept winning renewed terms in her district because she does the progressive work we want (I’m in district 60B, and know her record well).

    I have not heard anything from her primary opponent that makes me think he’s at all ready for more than the appointed role he has (he was not elected to it) on the School Board. Ambition is one thing. Knowing your way in the legislative business on a large number of issue is another. And there, Phyllis Kahn is the far superior candidate

  5. Submitted by Bill Kahn on 08/04/2014 - 11:27 am.

    Neither Mr. Cage, nor Mr. Swift know or have spoken to Phyllis Kahn (unrelated to me), I think, a woman with whom in my twenty years in her district, I have conversed with on many issues. There is nothing wacky about her save in the minds of folks who want politicians who will serve their narrow interests. I think these sorts of ignorant comments will help Representative Kahn in this primary, so please, let these men and all others like them post some more, here.

    Phyllis has always served both the truth and her constituents, so if you are going to compare her to Michele Bachmann, you had better consider closely what you consider an extreme position because that tells more about you than the objects of your assessments. The most salient way to make a point in the Legislature is to bring forth a bill, and Rep. Kahn can be proud of all her bills for that reason, whether they become law or not.

    Mohamud Noor is a fine man and I like him, but he is not a legislator; in twenty years perhaps he could be half the legislator that Kahn, a fine woman, has been for forty-odd years. Perhaps after a time working with Rep. Kahn on his issues, Noor could learn something, but it would not serve the district or anyone else to give OJT to him in the Legislature now.

    Kahn is as effective in serving all of her constituents as she has ever been and folks, especially those whom her opponent says he wants to help, would be poorly served in replacing her.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 08/04/2014 - 12:18 pm.

      You don’t know

      if Noor is a legislator because he hasn’t had a chance to prove himself, just as Kahn wasn’t a legislator when she was first elected. She doesn’t own the seat and her lengthy tenure grants her no special privilege in keeping it. She’s there at the will of the voters.

      • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 08/04/2014 - 12:46 pm.

        Well, we’ll just have to see what the voters know, won’t we? As far as “her lengthy tenure,” that grants us a great deal, not her (not so with Noor).

        • Submitted by jason myron on 08/04/2014 - 03:11 pm.

          A great deal?

          Not always…most of the time, its just a cush job for someone on autopilot coasting on their rep. 42 years isn’t pubic service, it’s an ongoing 401K

    • Submitted by Vince Netz on 12/07/2014 - 02:00 pm.

      Neither

      I have spoken with Rep. Kahn, most recently at a Prospect Park community meeting. She was disconnected on topics and her only contribution was to ask people if they wanted lawn signs. She also sat in a strangely aggressive wide stance and rudely interrupted conversations with non sequitor comments, giving an overall countenance I can only describe as “ridiculous”.

      Progressive or not, effective or not, her replacement is long overdue. My main complaint is why the DFL can’t figure out meaningful succession plans behind closed doors ahead of time so these petty battles aren’t foisted onto voters. It wastes time, energy and money better spent on the main election.

  6. Submitted by Bill Kahn on 08/04/2014 - 11:34 am.

    Oh yeah,

    Oh yeah. Considering what the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul and all those dioceses round the state are going through now, DeLaSalle is a big, big issue for everyone.

    I am just glad there was someone to help keep them in check as they took over a city street and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board land for their virtually private stadium.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/04/2014 - 01:14 pm.

      ZERO

      I have ZERO empathy for the Archdiocese and its’ leadership. I not even Catholic. I did have a couple of kids who went to DeLaSalle and saw a school that lives out everyday what Phyllis Kahn purports to stand up for: equal opportunity, diversity, assistance for those in need, high standards and expectations for performance. They are doing it right and Phylis Kahn led an effort that took 1 million dollars out of their coffers in a legal battle so that a few Nicollet Island squatters would not potentially have their peace and quiet disturbed 5 nights a year. And we know this for sure: While the DeLaSalle football field may be “virtually private”; Ms Kahn and the other residents of Nicollet Island have taken over park board land and their occupation of that land is absolutely private. It remains a disgrace: 1 million dollars could have enabled a lot of kids to get a great education. Instead it was squandered on a NIMBY lawsuit led by Ms. Kahn. Mr. Kahn laying the woes of child sex abuse by priests on DeLaSalle is worthy of Michelle Bachmann smear tactics on her worst day.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/04/2014 - 03:20 pm.

        Squatters?

        You do know that the people who live on Nicollet Island pay for the privilege, don’t you? That the Park Board leases it to them as a part of a complex deal worked out many years ago?

        • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/04/2014 - 08:05 pm.

          Un BULL leivable

          I am amazed that you would even go here. It was an incredibly complex process to “win” one of the park board properties on Nicollet Island 30 years ago. I guess that is why DFL insiders like Phyllis Kahn were over represented in the “winners” category. And, courtesy of the Hennepin County Property Identification web server, we can see that a certain not to be named State Representative pays a property tax of $177.73 on the .16 acres she squats on. Her across the river neighbor in the North Loop lives on .15 acres and pays $18,244.40 per year in property taxes. It is one thing to finesses a great, lifetime housing deal out of city government. it is quite another to then turn 100% NIMBY and try to shut down the DeLaSalle football field when that too was in the very same “complex deal”. Ms. Kahn should be happy with her 42 years of service, her state pension, and her lifetime squatter’s rights on park board property.

          • Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 08/05/2014 - 04:57 am.

            Thanks for the info

            Edward, Thanks for the info. This does not surprise me. One more example of the “ruling class” that the state has created.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/05/2014 - 09:14 am.

            Touched a nerve?

            My point was merely that the residents of Nicollet Island are not “squatters., but you raise an interesting point about the De La Salle football field. From what I have been able to find, no one remembers how that deal was made, or how good ol’ Dee ever got permission to build a field on publicly owned property in the first place. This is what I meant by “complex deal:” it’s so complex, no one involved can recall the discussions that lead up to it.

            Not that De La Salle is paying property taxes on the land THEY happen to be “squatting” on.

          • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 08/09/2014 - 10:59 am.

            You do understand that in Minneapolis, residential property taxes go up as a function of the market value of the property? If a guy is paying upwards of $18,000 per year in taxes, he’s living really high off the North Loop hog–probably in a condo valued upwards of a million dollars.

            Bu contrast, the Kahns don’t own the land their home sits on (it still and always belongs to the Parks), so that value isn’t counted. Then, they had to rehab, within a deadline, a historic little house. Not a luxurious North Loop condo. Further, they don’t really own the home! Ergo: much, much lower taxes.

      • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 08/04/2014 - 04:16 pm.

        Doing it right?

        Wasn’t too long ago that De La Salle was telling its students that homosexuality was the equivalent of bestiality. You are comparing the wrong folks in this story to Michelle Bachmann.

        http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/146031865.html

        http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2012/04/delesalle_student_during_anti-gay_school_assembly_holds_up_sign_i_love_my_moms.php

        • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/04/2014 - 08:18 pm.

          Not Exactly

          My kids happened to be in the session you referred to. Openly gay students are welcomed at DeLaSalle and happy and successful there. The previously mentioned Archdiocese, not the faculty or administration at DeLaSalle did travel around to give their misguided (in my opinion) message and they were booed and hooted down by students who did not suffer any repercussions from the school for letting their beliefs of inclusion be known. That is the report I got from my kid that day. The Archbishop is a jerk, the Archdiocese is led by this jerk. He has little or nothing to do with the day to day operation of a school that any liberal (or conservative) would say: that’s the kind of education I want for my kid.
          And if you would have read the links you posted you would read the same thing I am describing.

          • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 08/05/2014 - 01:19 pm.

            I read them

            The school brought the speakers in and then defended the message afterwards. Sounds like the kids have figured it out despite the poor teaching by the school.

    • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 08/04/2014 - 01:48 pm.

      Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul

      By your reference to “…what the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul… are going through now, DeLaSalle is a big issue…” please tell us exactly what you are inferring.

      • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 08/04/2014 - 08:37 pm.

        I mean that they teach kids that they can walk all over folks and get things that they don’t have any right to have if they are persistent and deny the truth of matters whenever that truth works against their goals.

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 08/05/2014 - 07:21 am.

          That’s quite a charge

          Do you have anything (cites? references? anything?) to back that up?

          • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 08/05/2014 - 12:31 pm.

            What?

            Where was Mr. Berg during the period that this stadium was being foisted on us?

            I think a monastery brewing beer and baking bread for folks in this touristy and historic area would have helped finance and promote all that is Roman Catholicism in Minnesota much better than DLS and its students have.

            Until then, we’ve got a global Roman Catholic clergy sex scandal and other connivances society suffers in the name of religion.

            • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/05/2014 - 01:43 pm.

              So, the succinct answer to Pat’s question is no; you got nothin’.

              • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 08/09/2014 - 10:53 am.

                Actually, there are some facts to support Bill Kahn’s statement: When De la Salle was fighting to take public park land within a national protected river area on the Island, De la Salle high school students lied in public about the conditions of Van Cleve Park’s playing field in order to persuade authorities that their private school should be able to do what it wanted with public park land. They falsely claimed that Van Cleve was strewn with drug users’ needles, an outrageous fabrication from a group of very privileged girls soccer team players.

                That’s just one lie they told, about my neighborhood park.

            • Submitted by Pat Berg on 08/05/2014 - 04:38 pm.

              Excuse me?

              What does the stadium have to do with your earlier post that said DeLaSalle “teach(es) kids that they can walk all over folks and get things that they don’t have any right to have if they are persistent and deny the truth of matters whenever that truth works against their goals.” Not to mention now bringing beer and bread into the conversation.

              I am not following you at all.

            • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/09/2014 - 09:55 pm.

              Bill, Bill, You’re a Phyllis Kahn supporter, a liberal progressive, your heart is supposed to be full of peace, love and understanding, embracing diversity, giving a hand up to those in need, yet when it comes to DeLaSalle you’re Michelle Bachmann at a Gay Pride parade: all sound and fury, lashing out in all directions. The school (not the church, not the Archbishop, not the Pope) should be viewed as a good thing if you have liberal progressive values. If you walked the halls and saw what actually goes on you would agree.

  7. Submitted by jason myron on 08/04/2014 - 11:39 am.

    Frankly

    I don’t care what positive things Kahn has done in her career. 42 years in government is way past the expiration date. She needs to move on and pass the torch to someone else.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 08/04/2014 - 07:50 pm.

      Respectfully

      I don’t have a dog in this fight, and we often agree Jason, but you’re off base here. Legislators should be judged by their results, not their age or some mythological “expiration date”. Do some folks get stale, sure, but to blanket state that one should only serve a certain timeframe just to put a new face in is the province of government hating term limiters. Term limits sound great until you think about it and realize that all it will lead to is a body of inexperienced neophytes, completely beholden to staff and entities like ALEC to bring forth any meaningful legislation. Not only that, but the certainty of a final term will lead to an even higher level of single issue advocacy, to the detriment of anything actually getting done. What sort of government does that sound like to you?

      • Submitted by jason myron on 08/04/2014 - 11:47 pm.

        Matt, I respect you as well.

        and I too have no dog in this fight. I have nothing personal against Ms. Kahn, but c’mon, she’s held that seat for forty two years. When she was elected, Nixon was in office, I was a freshman in high school and Johnny Nash “I Can See Clearly Now” was the number 1 song on the radio. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe that ANY political office should be a lifetime gig. Everyone that starts a new job can be classified as a inexperienced neophyte, but that’s how we all eventually learn, right? Without a new perspective and fresh ideas, staleness and a “set in my ways” mentality is inevitable and there’s certainly just as much chance that a long time incumbent will kowtow to certain interests… history has proven that time and time again. I disagree that the inevitability of a final term will lead to single issue advocacy, but rather more freedom and bolder leadership without the fear of having to court extremists to remain in office.
        Matt, she’s held that office for over half of her life. At this point, there are other ways for her to continue to serve the public, if that’s what she wishes, but in my mind, people that are so deeply entrenched in a political office for that stretch of a time are a little too cozy nesting under the friendly confines of government. We’ll just have to respectfully agree to disagree on this one.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/05/2014 - 08:56 am.

        Once upon a time

        I agreed with the wisdom of having long tenured political office holders. People who have years of experience and use it in their political practice. Not any more. The job has simply become too precious to too many of them. Look at the gridlock in DC and it is much due to decisions to base a vote or position on the impact it will have on the individual’s next election prospects. Tea Party primary challengers have driven this home repeatedly and the same happens on the left. Give them all truth serum and ask them how often a vote is decided by its’ electoral impact and more hands will go up than not. And it is a disgrace. These individuals represent anywhere from thousands to millions of constituents and votes are decided in the best interest of one person: themselves. They need to be freed from this situation and term limits is the only way that I can see it being accomplished. That being said, I will exempt Phyllis Kahn from that number. She has enjoyed 42 years of service to a constituency that uniformly lines up with her views. She has no need to vote a certain way to get re-elected, she just gets re-elected time after time. And that does lead to a certain sense of entitlement and power. And that is where my issue comes in. I supported Ms. Kahn for years. I did not have a problem with a discussion on whether 12 year olds should have a vote: let’s debate it. I would expect a conservative Republican in the suburbs to go all NIMBY if someone want to put mixed income housing 3 blocks from their home. I expected more from Ms. Kahn when a school in her neighborhood, that had been a good citizen, that exemplified the values she professes to have, asks for the same opportunity she had when she moved there and she put all of her political muscle into costing the school a million dollars in extra expenses to build what anyone who looks at it today would say: “this is kind of nice, what was the big deal?”. Too much power and entitlement, time for a change.

        • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 08/05/2014 - 01:03 pm.

          You are

          Your are blaming DLS’s outlays to gain the use of our parkland for their stadium on Rep. Kahn?

          Anything you have to say is colored by you finishing your tome with this.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/05/2014 - 01:45 pm.

          “The same opportunity she had when she moved there”

          I’m confused. When did Rep. Kahn get permission to block off a street and build a football stadium?

  8. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 08/04/2014 - 12:44 pm.

    Term Limits

    The best argument for term limits.

  9. Submitted by Tom Clark on 08/04/2014 - 02:40 pm.

    A minor correction

    Kahn is 77 years old, not 76.

  10. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 08/05/2014 - 10:53 am.

    As one of Phyllis Kahn’s constituents in District 60B, let me interrupt the ageist diatribes here to say that in the most recent session of our state legislature, Kahn pushed forward successfully on several really important issues to those of us who are progressives. She works well with others, she gets things done.

    I realize that her successful work against the outstate hunting-fishing lobby (and one of the Star Tribune’s oldest columnists, on the sports pages advocating hunting and fishing) angered those outstate men. But hey! the Legacy funds must also be shared in efforts toward habitat preservation in the Twin Cities metro. Phyllis is in a powerful position to represent us in that and other regards, and she has powerful ability to articulate the issues, based on deep knowledge and even science. Maybe that explains the heated opposition to this efficiently-functioning and powerful woman from non-District 60B people, people maybe even from outstate? I mean, How dare she, right?

    (Part of the reason the Kahns’ property taxes are so low is that, per the long-ago agreements, they don’t own the land. The guy across the way, who was contrasted with them, DOES own his land. Expensive, urban land.)

  11. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/05/2014 - 02:27 pm.

    Well,

    Actually she failed in her work to distort the intent of the 2008 Referendum on Environmental Legacy Funds. The intent of those that worked to draft, campaign for and pass this referendum was to establish a citizens’ committee that would provide direction for the long term benefit of the state’s environment. A key idea (right or wrong) was to separate it from the political meddling of shifting legislative majorities by having a citizens council recommend funding priorities. Ms. Kahn did not care for this approach and worked to shift the power back to the legislators, in opposition to the spirit of the referendum. Fortunately, Governor Dayton supported the will of the people and stopped her efforts. Why would someone try to reverse the will of the people so soon after the referendum was passed? Maybe a distorted sense of power and entitlement? I do agree though, that Ms. Kahn does not own the expensive, urban, river front land, 5 minutes from the heart of the city, that she lives on while paying $177.73 per year in property taxes.

  12. Submitted by Matt Haas on 08/05/2014 - 06:52 pm.

    So then

    I ask both of you, is the limit. Sould Sen. Wellstone have stepped away as he planned (setting aside for now the tragic outcome)? Should Bernie Sanders hang it up, just because? This is easy conjecture for a district in which there is a zero percent chance of a conservative victory, but what about a race like Wellstone’s, where his dropping out would literally hand the seat to the Repubs for 6 years. Its easy to decry electoral politics as corrupt and depressing, but one must live in the world as it is, and to govern one must first win. Again, what this points out to me is the conservative victory of painting government as an all corrupting influence, be resisted and controlled at all cost. Take each individual as one, debate their merits and come to a decision, but for god sake don’t let some false narrative make your decision for you.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/05/2014 - 07:46 pm.

      “Sould Sen. Wellstone have stepped away as he planned (setting aside for now the tragic outcome)?”

      I suppose the answer to that hinges on how seriously you take a man at his word, and how seriously he gives it.

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 08/05/2014 - 08:21 pm.

      Yes, Senator Wellstone should have stepped down.

      It was one of his campaign promises to the people that elected him. He broke that promise.

  13. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/06/2014 - 09:36 am.

    Some

    Make a promise to adhere to a set term in office, some break that promise and some make no promise at all. Let’s simplify things and put them all on an equal footing: 2 – 6 Year terms for Senators and 3 – 4 year terms for members of the House. The idea of citizen legislators goes back to the Revolution: you come from the people, you serve the people through government, you return to where you came from. Now it is either a life long career in office or the time in office followed by lobbying or another non-elective government job. It is stifling creativity and productivity.

  14. Submitted by Matt Haas on 08/06/2014 - 01:45 pm.

    So in essence

    Very little will change at the state level outside “safe” seats as they rarely last that long anyway. I think your expectations for change are a little high. I think most of your complaints should be directed less at the legislators themselves and more at the system they are forced to operate within. When we finally get through a conservative supreme courts obstruction and get the money out of the electoral process, many of your objections will be moot. Gonna be a big lift, but in reality its the only thing to correct the situation.

  15. Submitted by jim flanagan on 08/10/2014 - 09:45 am.

    42 years??? Way too long

    We need new ideas and broader life experience. I am voting for mr. Noor.

  16. Submitted by jim flanagan on 08/10/2014 - 12:16 pm.

    Past her expiration date

    Come on! She has been in office since Nixon? She has a long history of wacky legislation and conduct. Stealing opponents election signs? She has no business holding public office. We need a legislator with maturity. I have met Mr. Noor – very nice and intelligent man. And we need to broaden the racial mix to get different perspectives. Time for ms Kahn to step aside.

  17. Submitted by Linda Miller on 08/11/2014 - 10:20 am.

    De LaSalle Field

    I also have no dog in this fight – I am not in Kahn’s ward and I do not have kids at De LaSalle. I am not a fan of the catholic church – I feel like, as an institution, they hid known criminals, protected priests who they knew to be dangerous predators, and have done a great deal to harm gay rights in the state of Minnesota.
    Despite all of that, I could not believe Kahn’s attempts to stop the football field on Nicollet Island. As others have said here, she is living on park land, she got hers – let the kids at De LaSalle have a football field! Those kids are not the catholic church. They are high school kids who wanted a football field.

    I expect all Minnesotans, especially people elected to serve the people, to be good neighbors. It was selfish of her, exposed her to be someone who really mostly has her own best interests at heart, and demonstrated how tone deaf she was.
    I don’t think she wants to serve the public, personally – but as someone else said, she can do that in many other ways.

Leave a Reply