Health care talking point for 54A candidates

Jen Peterson

Keith Franke

There’s another open legislative seat up for grabs in the southeast metro area. 

House District 54A is currently held by DFL state Rep. Dan Schoen of St. Paul Park, but earlier this year he decided to run for the District 54 seat being vacated by state Sen. Katie Sieben.

Two politicians with city government experience are competing for the open seat in House District 54A, which includes Newport, St. Paul Park, Grey Cloud Island and portions of South St. Paul and Cottage Grove.

The Review asked the candidates - Keith Franke and Jen Peterson -- what skills and experiences they think they’d bring to the House of Representatives, what they think are the top challenges facing District 54A, and what issue or project they’d prioritize if elected. They answered via email. 


Keith Franke, 45, is currently mayor of St. Paul Park and the Republican-endorsed candidate in the race. He is the owner of Park Café and Franke’s Corner Bar in St. Paul Park. 

He attended St. Paul Technical College and earned a certificate for bar and restaurant management, and he received a certificate for economic development from Hamline University.

Franke said his experience as a father, small-business owner and mayor have given him many skills that he can bring to the Legislature if elected.

“I have had to work with managing a budget and arranging priorities of needs vs. wants at home with my children, in my business and as a mayor of a city,” Franke said.

He also is part of the South Washington County Cable Commission, Red Rock Corridor Commission, Holiday Train Commission and headed St. Paul Park’s Economic Development Authority.

Franke said some of the top issues facing the district and the state are the rising costs of healthcare, the “tax burden on hard working families needs to be reduced and we need to retain and grow businesses that provide stable jobs with quality pay.” 

Another issue is ensuring children receive a quality K-12 education and have the opportunity for higher education at a reasonable cost.

“Many of these challenges can be reduced greatly by being fiscally responsible with our taxpayer dollars and seeking out and eliminating areas with ineffective spending,” Franke said.

If elected, Franke said he would like to focus on ways to abolish the state tax on senior’s Social Security benefits and on veteran’s survivor benefits.


Jen Peterson, 50, lives in Cottage Grove with her husband Tony, and is the DFL-endorsed candidate. 

She is a two-term Cottage Grove City Council member, home care provider for her autistic nephew and a health assistant at Lincoln Center Elementary in South St. Paul. 

She has an occupational therapy assistant associate’s degree from the St. Catherine University.

Peterson said during her eight years in city government, she has been part of a “nonpartisan team that worked together to help move our city forward through tough economic times” and has been a leader in helping Cottage Grove become “a thriving community that is very fiscally sound, providing excellent public services.” 

She also has been a volunteer advocate at the Capitol on housing, poverty and women’s issues, and more.

Peterson said health care is becoming a major issue for the state, especially as the senior population grows and as skilled caregivers leave the workforce for retirement. 

She said she also recognizes the need for equalization of funding for education, especially in South St. Paul, and for transportation.

If elected, Peterson said she would prioritize legislation related to health care as it affects everybody at some point. She added there is a severe shortage of home care providers, mainly due to low pay.

“I will work to fund the programs and services to help Minnesotans live at home longer, and recruit and retain home care staff with better pay and benefits,” Peterson said.


Election Day is Nov. 8. To find your polling place visit,

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here