Voters poised to send first openly trans person to Minnesota Legislature

Leigh Finke won her primary Tuesday in a reliably DFL district

A woman poses for a photo at an election night party
Leigh Finke poses for a photo during her election night party at Bang Brewing in St. Paul on Tuesday. Having won her primary for state house in district 66A, if elected in November Finke will be the first trans woman in the Minnesota Legislature.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

A milestone victory Tuesday night could send the first transgender person to Minnesota’s Legislature.

Video production company owner Leigh Finke prevailed in her DFL primary for an open House seat in the St. Paul area. She’ll be the favorite heading into November’s election.

Finke won more than 60 percent of the primary vote for district 66A, which includes portions of St. Paul, Roseville, Falcon Heights and Lauderdale, defeating Dave Thomas in a district that reliably votes for DFL candidates. It’s an open seat following the retirement of DFL Rep. Alice Hausman.

“The idea of being able to vote for yourself as the first trans person you've ever seen on the ballot is, I mean, it's special,” Finke told MPR News. “We're around and we deserve representation, and we have a lot of work to do to let people know what it means to have an inclusive government, to have an inclusive state and to protect everyone.”

Finke said if she is elected in November she will work to push back against legislation that would marginalize people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer. She said being at the legislative table is critical as restrictive bills arise.

“If you want to change the way people understand trans rights as a political issue you simply introduce them to a trans person,” Finke said. “A lot of what I'm trying to do in this campaign is just do that work of activism, introduce people to trans people, and then that is the first step towards them understanding we're just parts of this community and we can represent everyone just like everyone else can.”

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Another DFLer who won a Tuesday primary is a lesbian. Former state Rep. Erin Maye Quade overcame endorsed candidate Justin Emmerich in an Apple Valley-area district. That seat will be among the most competitive this fall when Maye Quade faces Republican Jim Bean.

Clare Oumou Verbeten, equity manager for the city of St. Paul, is also a queer woman and the DFL nominee for an open Senate seat her party is favored to win. She faces Republican Mikki Murray and Libertarian Jeremy Peichel in November.

Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said their candidacies are meaningful.

“For far too long, people of color and the LGBTQ community have lacked equitable representation in government, particularly in state legislatures,” Parker, a former Houston, Texas, mayor, said in a statement after Minnesota’s primaries.

Correction (Aug. 10, 2022): A previous version of this article misidentified Erin Maye Quade’s sexuality. The story has been updated. We apologize for the error.

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