State Sen. Mee Moua‘s unexpected decision not to seek a third term at the Capitol set off a political frenzy in the St. Paul district that she represents. Ultimately, nine DFL candidates jumped into the fray, setting up a confusing Aug. 10 primary. Look for a longer piece about the contest on PIM’s website later today, but here are thumbnail sketches of the contenders:
John Harrington: The retired St. Paul Police chief enjoys broad name recognition and a solid reputation after three decades on the force. He’s a political neophyte, but has the backing of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, as well as Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner.
Foung Hawj: He runs a multimedia consulting firm called Digital Motion. Previously, Hawj worked as information systems manager for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. He has degrees from the University of Kansas and the Rochester Institute of Technology. Hawj’s community experience includes serving on the boards of the St. Paul Winter Carnival and the District 2 Community Council.
Tom Hilber: He’s a perennial DFL candidate, having previously run for the St. Paul City Council and the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners, among other posts. Hilber previously worked as a substance abuse counselor and teacher, and is a blues musician who performs regularly at the Minnesota Music Cafe.
Chai Lee: Lee arrived in the United States a year after he was born, moving to St. Paul in 1998. He’s a graduate of Carleton College and a board member of the DFL Asian-Pacific Caucus. Prior to announcing his candidacy, Lee worked in St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman‘s office.
Vang Lor: He was born in a refugee camp in Thailand, but has called St. Paul’s East Side home for 15 years. Lor is a graduate of Concordia College in St. Paul and serves on the DFL’s Affirmative Action Commission. He’s also been active with TakeAction Minnesota’s Hmong Organizing Program, helping to get Hmong geography and history incorporated into the curriculum of the St. Paul Public Schools.
Jim McGowan: He’s spent two decades as an advocate on behalf of people with diabetes. The issue is personal: His son has type one diabetes. Presently McGowan is the Minnesota director of the Medicare Diabetes Screening Project and the volunteer chair of government affairs and advocacy for the American Diabetes Association’s Minnesota chapter. He’s also run a technology consulting firm and a nonprofit group designed to funnel donations to charities.
Trayshana Thomas: She currently works in the office of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. Previously, Thomas served as a legislative assistant to state Sen. Linda Higgins. She’s also been involved with the Dayton’s Bluff District 4 Community Council and Women of SD 67. Thomas was recently named a “rising star” by the DFL Women’s Hall of Fame.
Avi Viswanathan: Most recently he worked in Sen. Al Franken’s office, principally on criminal justice issues. Viswanthan is a past president of the Dayton’s Bluff District 4 Community Council and also served on the city’s Neighborhood STAR Board. He has the support of St. Paul City Council president Kathy Lantry and Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega.
Cha Yang: Yang came to this country from Laos after his father was killed in combat during the Vietnam War. He has degrees from Northwood and Concordia universities and has worked for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Yang was the Hmong coordinator in Minnesota for John Kerry‘s 2004 presidential campaign.