Candidates in House District 54A focus on healthcare, water quality

A Minnesota House representative is looking to keep what used to be a blue seat red after winning his first term in 2016.

Incumbent Keith Franke, Republican, is being challenged by Anne Claflin, DFL, in the race for House District 54A, which includes portions or all of Cottage Grove, South St. Paul, Grey Cloud Island Township, St. Paul Park and Newport. 

The Review asked the candidates via email why there are running, what skills and experiences they will bring to the office, what they believe to be the top challenges the district faces, and what issues or projects they would prioritize if elected.

 

Anne Claflin, 35, is a resident of South St. Paul is married to Warren. She is a research scientist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Claflin has a master of science degree from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs in science, technology and environment policy.

Claflin said she has experience as a member-activist in the labor movement, as a local union president and in environmental policy. She added she has scientific and analytical skills. 

“My career has been centered in public service and I saw the opportunity to help my community by running for office,” Claflin said.

She added that organizing with the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees Union was rewarding because it gave her a chance to see how the hard work was helping others. 

“My values are best described by Sen. Paul Wellstone, that we all do better when we all do better. I also see the need for more representatives who have scientific backgrounds,” Claflin said, adding she is well-prepared to be an advocate for the community on a number of environmental topics.

She said many challenges are the same throughout the state – access to quality and affordable healthcare choices, funding public education and finding ways that are fair and equitable to reach goals. 

Claflin said the groundwater contamination in the east metro is unique in the state “and is a challenge for us to ensure that we have treatment facilities capable of meeting our needs in the future.” 

“We also have opportunities in the growth of the district to meet the challenge of providing public transit,” Claflin said.

Claflin said paid family leave is an issue that has reignited her activism and will be a priority for her. She said after working with those in her union to successfully get paid parental leave, she knew the next step was to make it an option for more Minnesotans. 

“We can all do better when our jobs are not at risk because of an illness and when we can take the time to care for our families when it is most needed,” Claflin said.

 

Keith Franke, 47, lives in St. Paul Park and is engaged to be married. He was first elected to a two-year term in 2016. Franke is a small business owner of Park Café and Franke’s Corner Bar in St. Paul Park. 

He has a vocational certificate in bar and restaurant management from St. Paul Technical College and a certificate in economic development from Hamline University.

Franke said the skills and experience he would bring to office include “being a father, grandfather and small business employer.” 

“I am a manager of a great staff of people and have to always be looking at the bottom line to make an efficient and profitable business while maintaining a quality product,” Franke said, adding he listens and interacts to customers and constituents concerns every day and has a proven record of collaboration with other lawmakers for the state’s greater good.

He added being the former mayor of St. Paul Park honed his budgeting experience and pushed it to a higher level of accountability.

“Overall, I have had a wide variety of life experiences which give me a unique insight into many social and economic challenges that people in my district face daily,” Franke said.

He said is running for re-election because he believes in giving the people in the district an honest and common-sense voice in the state government. 

“I think government can work efficiently for more people,” Franke said. 

Franke added most people in the district want things like dependable transportation infrastructure, quality affordable healthcare, equitable education options, employment opportunity and advancement, and “a government that uses their tax money responsibly to ensure necessary services are accessible.” 

A top challenge Franke sees in the district is making sure funds designated to ensure water quality for residents are kept in the district. 

If re-elected, Franke said beyond ensuring lasting water quality, he is committed to continuing his work on distracted driver and school safety legislation he introduced last year “as well as creating a multi-faceted plan to attack the rising addiction epidemic that affects the lives of so many.”

 

Election day is Nov. 6. To find your polling place visit pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

 

-Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com

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