Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Community Members Seek to Serve

With election season upon us, it is important to understand who we are voting into office. With so many key issues coming to the fore, including the COVID-19 health crisis, to be or not to be back in the classroom this fall, and the need of the hour for the upgrading of our civil liberties and ameliorating systemic racism in America, we need to be educated on those we choose to serve as our representatives.

In this issue, meet three local candidates running in the August 11 primary. Each candidate was interviewed on Green Tea Conversations radio show on AM950. The profiles in this article are extrapolated from the radio interviews and have been edited for print. The full unedited podcast interviews can be found at NATwinCities.com and AM950Radio.com.

Cedrick Frazier, Candidate
Minnesota State House of Representatives 
Frazier is the DFL-endorsed candidate for state representative in District 45A, which includes the cities of Plymouth, New Hope and Crystal. He is a labor attorney for Education Minnesota and a City Council Member for New Hope.

The Decision to Run for Office
I believe when we elect representatives, we have a representative. You should have someone that has proximity to the issues that they are addressing and can govern with the lens of empathy, which makes you a better representative and a better advocate. I have proximity to many of the disparities facing our state. When I was growing up, I suffered through two evictions, so I understand the housing affordability issue and home insecurity. My parents were on public assistance, and I stood in those food lines, so the food insecurity piece is close to me. I also did not attend the best school system and learned firsthand that educational opportunity gaps exist, especially today in Minnesota. We can close those gaps, so nobody gets left behind.

Affordable Health Care
One of the biggest things we must do is expand MNSURE—open it up. I think the problem that we have in this country is our health care is often tied to employment. As we have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are layoffs and businesses shutting down, causing large scale unemployment and a lack of healthcare insurance for these employees. In some European countries, they have what I call a people-first perspective where they legislate and look at what's going to be the best thing for the people of their country. If you look at Medicare for All or a universal system where everybody has access to quality health care that is not tied to employment, I think we’re going to have better outcomes.

Systemic Racism
One of the most pressing things to figure out is how to hold police officers accountable when something happens like we witnessed with George Floyd. I have a good relationship with our police chief in the city of New Hope and I meet with a few Northwest suburban police chiefs and community members to talk about police and community relations about once a quarter. I don't think that all police are bad, but I will say we do have a system that has created a mindset in which officers may believe that they can do these things and there is not going to be any harm or accountability brought to them. In Minnesota, we have the Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Board and we were one of the first in the country to require credentials for our police officers, which is a great thing. But we have not kept up with 21st-century policing in order to hold our officers accountable.

One of the conversations right now is how we can prevent officers who do something egregious from moving to another jurisdiction and doing the same thing again. The POST board is a way that we could deal with that. They can investigate immediately, take the license away or suspend it. Since you need a license in this state to be a peace officer, the officer could not be hired in another Minnesota jurisdiction. This is like what the professional education licensing board does with teachers. When a license is suspended or revoked, you cannot teach.

For more information, visit CedrickFrazier.com or follow on social media @CedFrazierMN.

Daonna Depoister, Candidate
Minnesota State House of Representatives 
Depoister is also a candidate for State Representative in District 45A. She has 20 years of business experience in financial services and has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. 

The Decision to Run for Office
Shortly after our first son was born in 1999, there was legislation being proposed that would require parental medical treatments for infertility to be declared on a child’s birth certificate. I said “no way!” That experience lit my fire to advocate for others like us.

Fast forward to early 2003. I was lobbying as a private citizen at the capitol with my friends. I shared with them that the child I was carrying was going to be born with Down syndrome. Through my tears, it hit me—the laws we put in place are there to protect people like my son, who are disabled, those who are marginalized and vulnerable, those who have no voice of their own. It was at that moment I knew I wanted to advocate for others in a much bigger way. When I learned Representative Carlson was retiring, I knew that the time is now.

Affordable Health Care
The U.S. spends more on health care than any other developed country in the world but ranks 37th in outcomes. COVID-19 has pointed to a lot of the fractures in our health care system. We have to provide equal access to health care for all to reduce the cost of health care; get employers out of the business of providing health care so it is not a condition of employment, because many low-paying and part-time jobs don’t have benefits—it’s a burden especially for small businesses to supply healthcare benefits.

We have to make healthcare a right, not a privilege. I believe we have to go a single payer system, similar to Medicare. Another area of concern to me is the high cost of drugs for everyone, but especially those who have low incomes or fixed incomes. What types of natural health care should be covered by health insurance?

I believe our health insurance should cover things like naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, qi gong and other natural remedies. We shouldn’t leave out nutritional coaching and healthy exercise. I also think that medical marijuana should be covered for cancer patients and other diseases, for pain management and seizure disorders.

Systemic Racism
I am encouraged that for the first time in our history systemic racism is being addressed, not just as a black issue, but that finally white people are also getting involved and standing up for our communities of color.

I’ve learned that the average black household has only 60 percent of the income of the average white household and only 10 percent of the wealth. Wealth allows people to own a home, send their kids to college and start a small business. Without it, any one negative life event can create a crisis of disastrous proportion: loss of a home, apartment, a car—things that are imperative.
Initial ideas of things we can do immediately: outlaw redlining and forbid mortgage providers from discriminatory lending practices and amend FHA and HUD policies; better training for police in de-escalating violent situations and putting laws in place that protect our citizens, especially people of color; and implement more rigorous statewide and national policing standards. This is just a place to start.

For more information, visit DaonnaDepoister.com.

De’Vonna Pittman, Candidate
Hennepin County Commissioner
Pittman is the DFL endorsed candidate for Hennepin County, District 1. She is an author, entrepreneur and long-time employee at Hennepin County where she serves as the Disparity Reduction Coordinator.

The Decision to Run for Office
I decided to run to bring a different perspective, one that I know hadn't been interjected in Hennepin County or in District 1 for the history of Hennepin County. As frightening as it was to declare that I was running, I knew I had to lend my voice, my leadership and my influence to changing systems that weren't serving all people. I felt it was important to infiltrate a world that hadn't always considered the risks that needed to be taken to ensure a fair and equal system that would ultimately remove biases and systemic racism.

Affordable Health Care
I support health care for all. People should not have to be without health care because they are unemployed, or underemployed. We should support all residents; and when people do not have jobs, they should not be expected to choose between food or health care. The rising cost of medicine is really about the greed of pharmaceutical companies and their stockholders. 

I believe in the benefits of alternative and natural remedies for optimal health. Therapeutic massages and other methods of relieving stress or disease should be covered by health insurance. Alternative medicines when monitored by a physician should be considered if, and when, traditional medicines alone are not effective.

Systemic Racism
The work I do at Hennepin County centers every day around disparity reduction, so I am elated that this work is finally being moved forward by a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. But, transparency will be important, and Hennepin County needs to allow the community to partner to get real solutions.

The bold move to declare racism a public health crisis was uncomfortable for a lot of people, which is why it is important—it forces us to act. It calls to action a series of steps including reviewing current processes and policies and figuring out where they go wrong. It forces us to look at policies that negatively affect the lives of residents and clients. Additionally, we must initiate a new tradition of ensuring staff and community voice is built into everything we do at Hennepin County.

My department performed an environmental scan of all departments, initiatives and programs at Hennepin County. I am uniquely aware of how that work interacts with the 21 disparities that were identified. If elected, I would direct administration and staff to begin there and use a racial equity lens. I plan to work closely with directors, the county administrator and the assistant county administrators to ensure we get the change we need. The unique insight that I bring to the table will be critical in moving this work forward.

Jeffrey Lunde and MaryJo Melsha did not respond to our requests to participate.

For more information, visit PeopleForPittman.com.

Green Tea Conversations with Cedrick Frazier

Green Tea Conversations with Daonna Depoister

Green Tea Conversations with De'Vonna Pittman

Read the full September 2020 Magazine