DFLer Vazquez steps up for Dist. 41A, Rosivach steps down in support

Ruben Vazquez
Ruben Vazquez
Valerie Rolsad
Valerie Rolsad

The candidate lineup for District 41 has shuffled a little over the past week.

While no Republicans have announced their candidacy yet, according to Kelsy Koeller, communications specialist for the Republican Party of Minnesota, the same cannot be said for the DFL party.

As state Sen. Barb Goodwin announced her upcoming retirement after years of serving at the state Capitol, first in the House and then the Senate, DFL House Reps Connie Bernardy, District 41A, and Carolyn Laine, District 41B, each announced their intention to run for her seat next November.

That meant no incumbent would be running for those two House seats, and New Brighton resident Rich Rosivach said he would seek the DFL endorsement for Bernardy's spot.

However, Rosivach announced last week that he had changed his mind and was not going to pursue Bernardy's seat.

Why did he back out? Because he said he believes that his would-be opponent, Ruben Vazquez, is the right man for the job.

Vazquez made his announcement to seek the DFL endorsement for District 41A on Monday, Nov. 30.

Vazquez, who lives in New Brighton and is a parent in the Mounds View School District, is currently director of operations and organizational effectiveness at TakeAction Minnesota, a statewide organization focusing on economic, gender and racial equality for all Minnesotans.

Prior to working with TakeAction Minnesota, he spent two years with the Minneapolis Public Schools as director of student family and community engagement.

Rosivach's decision

"I entered the race because I believed I had the passion, skills, knowledge and experience to do the job of representing my community well," Rosivach said in a statement. "I entered the race this year because I was ready and committed to do the work it took to win and to serve with excellence."

While he asserted all of that was still true, he said Vazquez was a good friend "and a person of exceptional character."

But Rosivach said that Vazquez has one thing that he does not have.

"We share the same values and commitments to equity and education," Rosivach said. "But what Ruben brings to the Legislature is something I cannot. As a new American, Ruben brings a lived-experience on issues of race, equity and social justice.

"At this time, in our community, and state, we critically need his passion, his voice and his experiences."

Vazquez was born in Mexico City and moved to Minnesota 35 years ago. He's lived in New Brighton for about a decade.

Others in the race

Valerie Rolstad has also declared her intention to seek the DFL endorsement in District 41A. She is a special education educational assistant in the Columbia Heights School District and in a statement said she "will be a strong advocate for working families at the Capitol."

She grew up in Columbia Heights and graduated from Columbia Heights High School before graduating from the College of Saint Teresa with a bachelor's degree in social work.  
Rolstad currently lives in Fridley. Her professional focus is on students with autism spectrum disorder and emotional behavior disorder.

In the House 41B race, Mary Kunesh-Podein and Rachel Nelson are vying for the DFL endorsement.

Kunesh-Podein is a library media specialist and has a master's degree in information media from St. Cloud State. She has been a member of the New Brighton parks and rec commission, and in a statement said, "I've been thinking about this for five years. ... I think I'm ready."

Nelson, who lives in New Brighton, is the DFL chair of Senate District 41. In a statement on the DFL district website, she said, "My legislative experience and fresh perspective will be exactly what folks in our community need in an advocate in St. Paul."   

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him at twitter.com/JPooleNews.

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