Ojeda ’13 runs for Minnesota House of Representatives

Macalester students have a lot going on outside of classes. Many of them have jobs, or perform extensive work in the community. One student, Andrew Ojeda ’13, wants to take this engagement to a more legislative level by representing our neighborhood in the Minnesota State House of Representatives.

Ojeda has already taken major steps towards this goal. He has won the endorsement of the Minnesota Republican party, and it is nearly assured that he will face incumbent Erin Murphy (Democratic Farmer Labor – DFL) in November’s election. Our state house district, 64A, includes the Mac-Groveland, Merriam Park and Summit Hill neighborhoods.

Endorsements are awarded at Basic Party Organizing Units, or BPOUs. These are organized by county in the rural areas of Minnesota, and are organized by State House or Senate districts in the Cities. On Mar. 11, Republicans from Minnesota Senate District 64 met to decide their endorsements. Ojeda, who was not opposed, was granted the endorsement after presenting a speech and answering questions.

Though he is originally from California, Ojeda has been involved with the GOP on the state, local and school level throughout his time at Mac. He currently interns at the Capitol for State Senator Gretchen Hoffman (R) of District 10 in Northwestern Minnesota. MacGOP won this year’s chapter of the year award from Minnesota College Republicans.

“We were really involved, we did what we could to help candidates in our area,” Ojeda said. “You kind of put yourself out there when you go to Macalester and you’re a conservative or you’re a republican or a libertarian,” Ojeda said.

Unlike the DFL, the GOP in Minnesota follows their endorsements strictly. This means that anyone running against Ojeda in a primary would not have any party support. It is very unlikely that Ojeda will run against opposition in the primary. Ojeda meets the residency requirement for Minnesota, having lived off campus all academic year in the Pink House. He plans to stay in the Twin Cities over the summer to work on his campaign.

Ojeda said his main motivation to run was concern for the state budget. “We see all around us at the fed level that if you don’t manage your budget things can happen,” Ojeda said. “Coming from California, I saw that as well. Minnesota is kind of in this transitional state where they can decide what direction they want their state to go.”

Ojeda also aims to reduce what he sees as unnecessary bureaucracy in Minnesota, “[making] sure the government gets out to people’s way and allows them to freely do with their money what they wish,” he said. To illustrate his point, he brought up the recent trouble Minneapolis bakery Cupcake has had opening a second location in St. Paul on Grand Avenue. The project has been stalled by concerns such as having fewer than the required number of parking spaces.

“Bureaucracy got in the way,” Ojeda said, “and they’re fighting just to open a simple shop.” Ojeda says that if elected he wants to streamline and refine business regulations in Minnesota, working to provide “something simple, something basic, something that invites businesses.”

The campaign has not officially begun yet—that will happen at a press conference Ojeda will hold on Apr. 19. At this time, his plans to win include looking for endorsements from current state senators and other “individuals that have some sway here,” he said.

Though Ojeda is running as a republican, he stressed that he is not purely partisan. “I don’t want it to necessarily be that because I’m a Republican, everything I do is Republican,” Ojeda said. “I don’t necessarily agree 100 percent with everything the party does.”

“There are issues I could agree with Democrats on, there are issues I could agree with Republicans on, and there are issues that aren’t necessarily represented in those two groups,” Ojeda said.

Erin Murphy is aware of Ojeda’s candidacy. “This cycle will not be the first in which I have run against a college student and I welcome Mr. Ojeda to the race,” she wrote in an email. “I am deeply honored to have represented the mighty citizens of 64A over the past 6 years,” Murphy said. “I hope to earn another term and will work this summer and fall to connect with voters, to listen, learn and act for our shared future.”

Murphy emphasized her family’s connections to the district as reasons to vote for her, having lived there for 24 years. “Our family is rooted in the community and that is a strong foundation from which to run and effectively serve as a state representative,” she said, adding that she is excited for the campaign ahead.

Were he to win the election, Ojeda would continue his studies at Macalester.

“Life goes on. Politics is not meant to be something where you leave your life,” he said, citing the example of high school economics teacher and state representative Kurt Bills, currently running for Senate. “You go do what you have to do at the capitol, then you go home.”

“I’m a student, but I’m running on a platform to be a citizen legislator,” Ojeda said.