Rep. Nolan West, one of Minnesota's weirdest Republicans, gets a challenger

Amanda Matchett says she isn't "excited" to have a "racist representative."

Amanda Matchett says she isn't "excited" to have a "racist representative." Andrea Dobbs Photography

Back when Blaine attorney Amanda Matchett was growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she remembers telling classmates she was going to be the first female president.

But it was only a few years ago she realized she and her neighbors deserved better representation. She was deeply affected by the killing of Philando Castile and the last presidential election. Then along came the “last straw” – Nolan West.

The Blaine Republican was elected to the Minnesota House that year, and managed to keep his seat by a hair in 2018. That’s despite his litany of record scratch-worthy Facebook posts, screenshotted and saved for posterity before he could hastily delete them during his first run for office.

In April 2011, he called Abraham Lincoln “the single worst president this country has ever seen.” In 2010, he claimed to “Hate Fagballs.” In 2008 – right after the nation’s first black president was elected – he announced it was “LYNCHING TIME!”

He has since apologized for posting “insensitive material” and claimed he took the posts down because “they do not reflect” who he is. But a lot of people haven’t forgotten, including Matchett.

“As a black woman, I’m not excited to have a racist representative,” she says. Nolan had to go, and she decided she’d be the one to kick him out. In August, she announced she’d be running for his seat as a Democrat.

It’s not just Nolan’s flagrantly offensive posts that disappoint Matchett. She also thinks she’d be an all-around better representative. She brings her legal and negotiation skills to the job, and a keen knowledge of hyper-local issues from living in the area for decades. One of her planks is securing more funding for Highway 65, which has been a congested, dangerous bugbear for years.

She wants to expand early education programs and make health care more affordable. She knows the vast majority of Blaine residents have health coverage, but that doesn’t mean it’s affordable. She’s worked as a health care attorney for about five years, she says, and she’d like to take a crack at that. 

Her job for the moment is meeting with as many people as she can. She knows how much pressure is on her red district right now, especially with President Donald Trump determined to put his thumb on Minnesota’s electoral scales.

But what it all comes down to is she’s tired of feeling “helpless” in the face of leaders she doesn’t trust.

“I think a lot of people are feeling helpless right now."