Rena Moran beats DFL-Endorsed Jeremiah Ellis in 65A

Rena Moran, St. Paul's first African-American legislator?
Rena Moran, St. Paul's first African-American legislator?

Rena Moran's path from homelessness to a seat in the statehouse was all but assured last night with her victory over Jeremiah Ellis in the DFL primary for St. Paul's 65A legislative district.

Moran beat Ellis by 1436 to 1231 votes, becoming the presumptive next legislator in a district where Republican wins are scarce. As we wrote last month, if Moran beats her GOP opponent in the general election, she will become the first African-American representative St. Paul has ever sent to the statehouse.

Her victory is also significant because it represents an upset of the DFL's favored candidate. Jeremiah Ellis won the party's endorsement last spring, but Moran had the support of TakeAction Minnesota, a coalition of unions and progressive organizations. With their help, she raised more campaign money than Ellis.

For Moran, a long-time community organizer, the lesson of her primary victory is clear: "Never doubt that grass-roots organizing is the way to go," she said at her victory party last night. "Don't think it can't win elections."

But having beaten the Democratic establishment as a progressive outsider, Moran was already building bridges and healing wounds last night. The current representative, Cy Thao, and State Senator Sandy Pappas attended her celebration, and she spoke on the phone with City Councilor Melvin Carter III, one of Ellis's major political backers. "At the end of the day, I am a DFLer, and they have reminded me of that today," she said. "I am just elated."

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