Minnesota politics set to lose LGBTQ, Native American champions

Reps. Susan Allen and Karen Clark announced they won't seek re-election in 2018.
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Rep. Karen Clark will step down in 2019, after first being elected in 1980.

Rep. Karen Clark will step down in 2019, after first being elected in 1980.

The Essentials

1. Democratic state Reps. Susan Allen and Karen Clark, both from Minneapolis, announced Friday they won't run for re-election in 2018.

2. Clark was first elected in 1980, becoming the first openly gay person to run and be elected to the Minnesota Legislature.

3. Allen in 2012 became the first female Native American to be elected to the Legislature, and the first openly gay Native American woman to be part of any state legislature in the U.S.

The Big Picture

South Minneapolis will lose two trailblazing lawmakers when the terms of Reps. Clark and Allen come to an end in January 2019.

Allen, representing District 62B (Powderhorn, Central, Bryant, Kingfield, Lyndale, Regina and Field) and Clark, representing District 62A (Whittier, Phillips, Lyn-Lake, Ventura Village, Seward) announced their intention to step down on Friday.

Clark is one of the longest-serving state lawmakers and will leave behind a legacy of fighting for the rights of LGBTQ people and women in Minnesota.

She may be best remembered for being a chief author of Minnesota's same-sex marriage equality law signed by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2013.

This came a year after she fought attempts within the Legislature to ban same-sex marriage, and 20 years after she led efforts to ban LGBTQ discrimination in housing, employment, public services, credit and education, according to Friday's announcement.

In 2013, she was recognized as a "Harvey Milk Champion of Change" by President Barack Obama at the White House.

When announcing her decision, Clark said she has "mixed feelings" about leaving – but wants to spend more time with her family, and focus on helping an environmental justice nonprofit she's involved with.

Rep. Allen's tenure was shorter than Clark's, first being elected in a special election in 2012. But during her time, she sought to break down boundaries and be a be a voice Native Americans in Minnesota, Friday's announcement says.

She cites marriage equality, an increased minimum wage and the Women's Economic Security Act as successes during her time, as well as her fight to protect Native Americans' "sacred lands, air, and water.”

Allen said she was driven to serve because minorities were "severely underrepresented in the Legislature." With more such candidates running in recent years, she's confident things will be "in good hands," she added.

They will leave two open seats in south Minneapolis, with Aisha Gomez – an aide of Minneapolis City Council member Alondra Cano – announcing her candidacy for Allen's 62B district on Friday.

But some local media types also have a cheeky suggestion for Allen's district.

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