Suburban Democrat hopes to diversify House

Minnesota’s next African-American legislator could come from the suburbs.

Alberder Gillespie of Woodbury filed campaign paperwork this week to run as a DFL candidate in House District 53B. The suburban House seat is held by first-term Rep. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury.

Alberder Gillespie of Woodbury is running for the Minnesota House in District 53B. Courtesy of the Gillespie campaign

Gillespie is a management consultant who serves on the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission board of directors. She previously served on the South Washington County school board and was a DFL Senate district chair.

Gillespie said she wants to be a powerful, progressive voice for her community on education funding, paid sick leave and other issues.

“We don’t want to see Minnesota move backwards,” Gillespie said.

Gillespie’s candidacy is noteworthy, given the lack of racial diversity in the Minnesota Legislature. There are only three African-American legislators, and Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, is the only black member of the House.

"I'm not running to be the candidate of color, but I recognize I am a candidate of color, and I understand the weight that that brings," she said.

Gillespie has a campaign kick-off scheduled Sunday afternoon in Woodbury.

Gillespie is the


third DFL candidate in District 53B. Shelly Schafer of Woodbury announced her candidacy in September. Kay Hendrikson, who ran for the seat in 2014, is also a candidate.

Incumbent Rep. Fenton was not surprised to hear about another challenger.

“I always expected that other people would file against me,” Fenton said. “I’m just continuing to focus on the citizens of Woodbury and keeping my sleeves rolled up to continue working hard on their behalf.”

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