Kunesh-Podein endorsed by DFL for House District 41B seat

Mary Kunesh-Podein

House District 41B Democrats recently announced they endorsed Mary Kunesh-Podein to run for the seat being vacated by Rep. Carolyn Laine

Laine, who is also endorsed by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, is on a quest for the District 41 Senate seat currently held by Sen. Barb Goodwin, who is preparing to retire from the Legislature at the end of 2016.

Kunesh-Podein of New Brighton and her Republican-endorsed opponent, 28-year-old Camden Pike of St. Anthony, will both appear on the ballot in November in the District 41B race.

House District 41B includes New Brighton and St. Anthony, as well as Columbia Heights and Hilltop. 

Pike’s name may sound familiar as he ran for the same seat in 2014 but was defeated by Laine. 



Kunesh-Podein, 55, grew up in Sartell and attended St. Catherine University in St. Paul where she studied elementary education for several semesters until the travel bug struck and she visited Europe.

She returned to Minnesota, and eventually married her husband, Tim Podein, raised children, and at the age of 35 completed degrees in education and social work at St. Kate’s.

Kunesh-Podein has worked as a fifth-grade classroom teacher in Minneapolis, opened and operated a reception center in Northeast Minneapolis and, most recently, works as a library media specialist for Robbinsdale Area Schools for more than a decade.

She has lived in New Brighton for the past 17 years.

She ran for the New Brighton City Council two years ago. She said she lost her city council race by fewer than 100 votes, and called the campaign experience a “good practice run” for her and a “valuable experience.” 

Since that time, she said she was approached by numerous people — including Goodwin and Laine — inquiring if she would consider running for the open House 41B seat. 

“I’ve done my homework and I realized that a lot of the concerns that the community members have are very much the same as mine,” she said. “I feel like I’m in a very good place in my life to be an advocate and leader to help build a good, strong communities.”


Education and environment

Kunesh-Podein serves as chair of the New Brighton Parks, Recreation and Environmental Commission and said she considers the environment to be an important public policy issue.

But she said her main focus would be education, informed, she said, by her long career in the field. 

“I’d really focus on education, not just the funding of it, but looking at some of the issues that are preventing our children from graduating, and making sure we have a strong, robust education system,” Kunesh-Podein said. 

“One of the things that most irks me now is all the focus on testing and the continual assessments of students. We need to find better ways to teach than just teaching to a test.”

She added that she believes it’s important for families have what they need, including “fair wages and paid time off.” 

“Representing our community would certainly be an honor and a privilege and I don’t take that lightly,” she said. 


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

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