Recent alum making run on open house seat

By Liora Barba

Less than one year out of college, a recent Macalester grad is looking to represent Macalester’s local legislative district, 64A, in the upcoming November election. Jessie Mortenson ’05 is a Green Party candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives and while this is, as Mortenson himself put it, typically a “safe liberal district,” a Green Party candidate may be a tough sell.

Despite being up against more experienced DFL candidates, Mortenson is optimistic. Encouraged by the recent success of fellow party member and mayoral hopeful Elizabeth Dickinson in the last city wide primary, and the chance to run for an open seat vacated by fellow Macalester alumnus, Matt Entenza ’83, Mortenson said that the opportunity to run was one which he could not decline.

Mortenson proudly wears his own campaign button, smiling and eager to discuss his upcoming campaign and candidacy.
He saw the chance to run for the position as an “opportunity to redefine leadership on progressive issues.”

Indeed, Mortenson is running on a unique platform. The campaign is centered around the concept of integrating community organizing into the legislature, and he comes to the table with a background in grassroots politics. In addition to promoting Green Party issues on campus, Mortenson also worked to protect need-blind admissions in 2004, when the college announced its decision to end the policy.

Since graduating, Mortenson has done work with the Metro Independent Business Alliance, an organization dedicated to supporting local, independent businesses. This focus on grassroots organizing and local issues is one which characterizes his party’s approach to politics, and it is at the heart of what is so unique about Mortenson’s campaign.
Erik Larson, a sociology professor at Macalester who first met Mortenson at a Green Party caucus, expressed confidence in the would-be representative.

“I would vote for him if I were in this district,” Larson said. “He is very committed to the ideals of the Green Party, which I feel reflect the values of this House district very well,” Larson continued.

These ideals, according to Mortenson, include a focus on issues that affect the local economy like small business development as well as a commitment to developing a renewable energy standard.

“We need to challenge the people in office,” Mortenson said. “There are a lot of dead fish in the legislature. We need to build stronger movements, and to use elected offices to add credibility to grassroots movements.”
Still, Mortenson sees himself as playing a unique role in the election.

“The seven candidates seeking the DFL endorsement all have consensus on some of the core goals.” These goals include universal healthcare, environmental protection, renewable energy, higher wages, and supporting local businesses, all of which Mortenson supports.

By bringing another party into the political discourse, Mortenson believes that he will be able to challenge candidates to better enable voters to “find out who has the most to offer.”

“He sees himself not only as a representative of this district, but also as a catalyst for people outside of this district who may feel alienated to get involved,” Larson said.

Still, with months until the election, the race is just beginning and Mortenson is still essentially at the start of his campaign. He has held a handful of events to gain publicity, including a vegan dinner that gained mention from Star Tribune columnist Doug Grow.

“We are committed to making a fun campaign,” he said. “And anybody who gets involved is going to have a good time and learn about what it takes to run a grassroots campaign.”