I grew up in the Midway neighborhood of Saint Paul, with my parents and three younger brothers and sisters. My family didn’t have a lot of money, but my siblings and I grew up with the blessings of a tight knit community, playing baseball at the rec center, gardening with our neighbors, and making lifelong friends with the other neighborhood kids. I attended St. Frances Cabrini, a church steeped in Catholic social justice and liberation theology, and Saint Paul’s public schools: J.J. Hill and Central High School. It was a great childhood.
But the 1980s were also a tough time for our community. Businesses were closing. Many people who could afford to move out of the city were doing so. In our diverse neighborhood and at the schools I attended, the disparities between white people and people of color were clear for even a child to see. My parents and my fierce, passionate public school teachers taught me not to ignore these challenges, but rather to see them in moral terms – as problems we could solve, if only we would work together. They taught me that building a more just society that works for everyone is the highest work a person can do. And throughout my life, this has been my guiding principle.
I carried those values with me when I went to college at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. While there, I helped to launch a successful living wage campaign for college employees, and organized students against U.S. involvement in human rights abuses in Latin America and for reform of U.S. trade policies to further economic justice and the environment. After graduating with a degree in political science, I moved to Philadelphia, where I worked on affordable housing and transit oriented development projects in neighborhoods across the city.
But I soon decided that I wanted to be able to do more. I entered a joint law and public policy program at the University of Michigan, where I studied economic policy and was an editor of the Law Review. After graduating, I joined a law firm in New York, where I worked on corporate investigations and did pro bono work on a U.S. Supreme Court case to protect campaign finance reform and on behalf of immigrant restaurant workers who had been victims of wage theft.
I met my wife, Samara, during our first semester of college, and we’ve been together ever since. We’ve moved around the country together, but it was clear to us that Minneapolis was where we wanted to be, where we wanted to raise our family, and where we wanted to make a difference in the world. Today, we live with our two beautiful children, three-year-old Theo and one-year-old Emmie, in a quirky little old house in the Kingfield neighborhood of South Minneapolis. If you stop by, you might find us playing baseball in the backyard, hanging out with our neighbors on the block, or biking around our neighborhood on a nice day.
I work as an Assistant Hennepin County Attorney. I spent five years with the financial crimes unit, prosecuting fraudsters, crooked cops, and other white-collar criminals, and I currently work with the County Board and Rail Authority to expand our region’s transit system. As part of the City’s Workplace Advisory Committee, I advocated to raise the minimum wage and for robust implementation of the City’s earned sick and safe time ordinance. With the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, now Our Streets, I campaigned to make our transportation system more sustainable and safer for pedestrians and cyclists. And I was a member of the Community Advisory Committee that pushed the Minneapolis Park Board and the Hennepin County Board to restore the Dakota name “Bde Maka Ska” to the lake we used to call Lake Calhoun.
For the past five legislative sessions, I have also worked as an advocate at the State Capitol. I helped to write and pass the 2016 Drug Sentencing Reform Act to reduce sentences for low-level offenders, the most significant piece of criminal justice reform legislation in a generation. I helped to write and pass legislation to protect Minnesotans from gun violence, domestic violence, and identity theft. And I am fighting today, as I have for the past five sessions, to restore the voting rights of people on probation and parole.
I know how to get things done, whether in the courtroom, at the Capitol, or in the public sphere. And that is what I offer in this race. I want the future I hand to my kids, and the future we all hand to our kids, to be better than the one we inherited: one that’s fairer, more sustainable, and more prosperous for more people. I will represent the progressive values of our community, and I know that I will be able to realize those values in real change in our lives.