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All four labor-endorsed candidates win Minneapolis school races

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, November 18, 2016

The labor and DFL-endorsed Minneapolis School Board candidates filing for election together back in May. Left to right: Kim Ellison, At Large; Bob Walser, District 4; KerryJo Felder, District 2; Ira Jourdain, District 6.

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS — All four candidates endorsed by the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO won their races for Minneapolis School Board November 6. The four winning candidates also were endorsed by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and the Minneapolis DFL Party.
The winning candidates included: Kim Ellison, At Large; KerryJo Felder, District 2; Bob Walser, District 4; Ira Jourdain, District 6.

The four candidates ran as a team.

“It shows what can happen when candidates actually work together and coordinate with the DFL,” said Dan McConnell, Minneapolis DFL chair and business manager of the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council. “I’m excited to have a board of people who actually want to work together. I think they ran a great campaign and they’ll do a great job running the school board.”

“MFT appreciates its wide base of support in electing four pro-public education school board directors,” said MFT president Michelle Weise. “We look forward to true collaboration between district leadership, school board leadership, and the union.”

The outcome of the 2016 races, which included losses for incumbents in District 4 and District 6, creates a strong pro-labor majority on the school board.

At Large: Kim Ellison
Kim Ellison, running against a perennial candidate, won election with the largest margin of any of the four races, 79.52 percent of the vote. Currently the incumbent in the District 2 seat, Ellison moved to the At Large race this year, where no incumbent was running.

District 2: KerryJo Felder

In the District 2 race in north Minneapolis, KerryJo Felder won by a narrow margin, defeating Kimberly Caprini by 201 votes out of a total of 21,071 votes cast between the two candidates (the race also had 277 write-in votes).
Felder led Caprini in 10 of 19 precincts in the district.

Felder took a leave of absence from her job as an organizer with the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation to run for the school board seat.
She knocked on “thousands” of doors, she said, and “when it got dark I went home and made phone calls.”

“Every day if you asked me, ‘how’s it going,’ I would say, ‘it’s 50-50.’ I’m glad I treated it like that all the way to the end.”

Felder, a member of Teamsters Local 120, participated in a candidate training program for union members, “Pathways to Power,” led by the Minnesota AFL-CIO. “Labor needs to put more people in power,” she said.

District 4: Bob Walser
In District 4 on the city’s west side, Bob Walser defeated one-term incumbent Josh Reimnitz by 51.6 percent to 47.27 percent, a margin of 1,193 votes. Walser led in 13 of 23 precincts.

Walser is an educator and Minneapolis school parent.

Walser ran, in part, critical of the flood of out-of-state money from so-called education “reform” groups which helped elect city newcomer Reimnitz four years ago.

Reimnitz, who taught school two years in Atlanta for Teach for America,  in 2012 defeated Minneapolis school parent and longtime school volunteer Patty Wycoff, who was DFL and labor-endorsed. That 2012 race set a new spending record at the time.

This year, the fear of late-in-the-race spending by outside money did not materialize.

Walser is a Minneapolis native and his wife Julie Young is a first-grade Minneapolis Public School teacher.

District 6: Ira Jourdai
In District 6 in southwest Minneapolis, Ira Jourdain defeated one-term incumbent Tracine Asberry by 50.54 percent to 48.6 percent, a margin of 585 votes. Jourdain led in 13 of 24 precincts.

Asberry ran unopposed four years ago, when she ran with MRLF endorsement. This year, the MRLF endorsed Jourdain instead.

Jourdain, a Minneapolis school parent and volunteer, is now the first Native American Minneapolis Public Schools parent to be elected to the Minneapolis School Board.

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