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Breaking the Ice: Exchange with Ellison prompted House bid

Name: Erin Maye Quade

Title: Representative, District 57A

Education: B.A., political science and justice and peace studies, University of St. Thomas

Rep. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, was venting about growing childhood hunger in her community to her then-boss — Congressman Keith Ellison.

“Are you going to run for office?” he asked.

That 2015 question prompted Maye Quade to run.

One takeaway from her first session, the first-term lawmaker said, was “how much discipline democracy demands.”

The casual way some bills advanced despite a flaw that the author said would get fixed later was a surprise.

“Often I’d be the only one who could see this flaw. It reminds me of the 31 years I wasn’t here or no one who looked like me or has lived a life like mine has been at these tables,” said Maye Quade, who is biracial and married to a woman.

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. I have coffee and conversations every week when we’re in session and once a month when we’re out of session. I have regular town halls. I love talking to people and they should ask me to join the conversation.

Q. Who was the first presidential candidate you voted for and why?

A. John Kerry. I was a get-out-to-vote, register-people-at-the-doors part of the College Democrats. I didn’t have a hatred for George Bush or anything. … I figured we could head in a different direction.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. I love to read. It’s something I’ve loved since I was a child. What my wife and I are currently reading is Hillary Clinton’s book, “What Happened.” But since we’re sharing it we’re both in different places and having to pass it back and forth. I’m also reading “Kindred” by Octavia Butler. I just reread “A People’s History of the United States.” I read that every now and again to immerse myself in the stories of the people more so than the narrative of the winners.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. When people use the word “irregardless.” When someone is willfully cruel and/or ignorant. It’s hard to watch someone who knows better still do it.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. My wife and I have a dog, Sota. She’s a special needs dog. She’s a cattle dog so she likes to herd things, anything that’s faster than a person and slower than a plane. We do training with her, run with her, we hike at Lebanon Hills [Regional Park] with her.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. We would have to do Music in the Park at Kelley Park on Friday in Apple Valley. We’d have to go to Abdallah (Candies), which is headquartered there. Maybe Vivo [Kitchen] for some flatbread and a drink. We’d have to bike some of the trails. And the Minnesota Zoo! We love the zoo!

Q. How has an event or person inspired you?

A. My grandma was my best friend in the whole world. She was a black woman born and raised in Alabama. She was born in the ’20s, so her life was very different from mine. I started calling her when I was 24, maybe. What started as finite conversations turned into two-hour conversations almost every day. She had such great wisdom. One of my favorite things she told me is if someone tells you that someone else was talking about you, they were talking about you too because they were having a conversation. She was a nurse. She and my grandfather were the first black family to save up and buy a house in a mostly white neighborhood.

Q. What would be one way to end partisan polarization?

A. I don’t think we can end partisan polarization because that would imply that there are no parties any more. The thing we can do is not make everything partisan. … We also have to stop rewarding partisans like we do. People say they don’t like negative campaigning. The reason it keeps happening is because it’s effective.


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