Jeff Hayden Omar Fateh
BY DAVE TILSEN
It’s election year again. Here in South Minneapolis we will have an election for our congressional seat, our state representatives and some of our state senators. I recently got a phone call from a young man who informed me he was running for the DFL endorsement against my incumbent state Sen. Jeff Hayden. This seemed a long shot, but I was intrigued. I had heard Mr. Omar Fateh speak at a candidate forum two years ago in 2018 and was impressed, so I set a date to have coffee with him. Here are my thoughts on the two candidates.
Sen. Jeff Hayden:
Jeff Hayden was first elected to the State Senate in 2011 to replace retiring Sen. Linda Berglin. Previously he had been serving as state representative since 2008. Before that he had served on the board of the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association (PPNA), the Bryant Neighborhood Organization (BNO), the Council of Black Minnesotans and other civic organizations.
Since being in the Senate he has served as minority and majority whip and deputy majority leader in 2012. He’s on several committees and has been author on several bills, and has secured funding for many South Minneapolis programs and progressive organizations, including the East Phillips Urban Farm, which is near and dear to my heart and which I have written about in Southside Pride in recent issues. As with all elected officials I have had my disagreements and issues.
Omar Fateh is the son of immigrant parents from Somalia. His father arrived in the U.S. in 1963 to study civil engineering at Montana State University; his mother immigrated later and received her master’s degree. Omar was born in the United States, and grew up in Minneapolis. He completed a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University. Mr. Fateh spent his early career serving underserved communities in education. He worked for the City of Minneapolis as a community specialist, and for the MN Department of Transportation functioning as a liaison between the state, researchers and the community on the impact of MNDOT projects on the environment, communities, etc. Mr. Fateh also worked for the MN Department of Revenue in the property tax division and has a firm grasp on the technical aspects of property taxes in our local jurisdiction.
Mr. Fateh is an Ambassador with Change the Narrative and a mentor with Tusaalo Mentoring. He served as vice-chair of the Hennepin County 2040 Comprehensive Plan. He has been active with local organizations and initiatives such as Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, VoteYes4Kids, 15Now, Minnesota Association of Public Employees, and the DFL Somali Caucus. Mr. Fateh is running as a Democratic Socialist.
Contrasting the Candidates:
Mr. Fateh talks a lot about the $15 minimum wage, believes it is a minimum to be enacted statewide, and criticizes Sen. Hayden for not supporting it in the Minneapolis local election or at the legislature.
I asked Sen. Hayden about this and he strongly disagrees, saying that he has always supported and advocated a $15 minimum wage. I looked on his web page. His web page says that he supports a $9 minimum wage indexed for inflation. I then texted him and asked him about this. He said that there was never a chance to vote on $15 at the legislature and the $9 with indexing was the best he could do, and that it would get up to $15 eventually. I asked that if he did support $15 why didn’t he say that? He didn’t respond. I also sent him a link to a 2017 Minnpost article where he expressed reservations about the $15 minimum wage for Minneapolis, saying that San Francisco had a higher standard of living than we did. I said I could find no place where he advocated for or endorsed the $15 minimum wage. He didn’t respond to that either.
As a young African-American man, Fateh talks about his firsthand experiences with being profiled by the police. Like all black men, he says he lives with the daily fear that he or one of his close friends will have a negative interaction with the police. He speaks often on issues of race, criminal justice reform and policing. Fateh expressed his anger and dismay that Sen. Hayden has accepted the endorsement of the Minneapolis Police Federation.
I have to admit that this surprised me also. I talked to the senator about it. He assured me that as an African-American man he thought the Minneapolis Police Federation was a bad actor and he had never and would never accept their endorsement nor would he accept a contribution from them. I took this at face value and intended to inform Mr. Fateh that he was mistaken.
Before I did, I took a look at Sen. Hayden’s website. To my surprise the Minneapolis Police Federation was listed among his endorsements in his 2016 election. I took a screen shot and texted it to the senator. He immediately texted me back, said it was on the website inadvertently. I said that didn’t he think that putting an endorsement, any endorsement on his site incorrectly was a pretty serious error? I mean it is a campaign law violation. He didn’t really respond, but I did notice that it was removed from the website within a day.
Then using an internet archive utility called Wayback, that archives old web pages, I found a 2012 piece of campaign literature of Sen. Hayden’s that also lists the Minneapolis Police Federation endorsement.
Well, the delegates and then the voters perhaps will need to make up their own mind about this race. I must say this has been a little deeper rabbit hole than I intended to go down.
We did turn out some longtime incumbents two years ago. Commissioner McLaughlin comes to mind, so I know it can happen, but it is a rarity. On the other hand, Mr. Fateh is an intelligent, energetic, charming young man. I think he deserves a listen.