Pilot, community organizer eye House seat
Cody Barringer, a flight instructor, and Liz Olson, a community advocate, are competing for the Minnesota House District 7B seat that two-term lawmaker Erik Simonson will vacate in hopes of landing a new post in the state Senate.
Olson, who is running on the DFL ticket, said she considers her candidacy a natural extension of her work in the community.
"I've been active in the Duluth community for the past 12 years on a number of issues, and I've built relationships with elected officials and community leaders and constituents throughout the district, working to bring policy solutions to people's lives. And this is just another way to put that into action," she said.
Barringer, who is a single father, said: "My opponent and I are both parents, and we're trying to make this a better place for our kids. But the philosophy that I got from her ... is that the more government, the better.
"But my philosophy is: If we limit the government and we allow programs to be independently run by people who aren't necessarily beholden to government, then we'll have more freedom and as a result we'll have better lives. It boils down to whether we think we should have more government in our lives or less," said Barringer, a Republican.
Olson said numerous conversations she has had with residents while on the campaign trail have given her a solid grasp of the issues that matter most to the people she seeks to represent.
"I've been door-knocking since May, and I've heard a lot from people throughout the district, about what's resonating with them," she said. "I'm hearing a lot about economic issues, and that's something I care a lot about — good jobs with benefits, like earned sick and safe time and paid family leave and making sure families can support themselves."
Barringer warned that burdensome taxes and regulation threaten to drive businesses out of the state.
Pointing to the delayed PolyMet and Twin Metals projects, Barringer said: "Environmental studies have been done, and due diligence is being done, but yet they're still having difficulty. It's one thing to request that they do due diligence, and I think everybody can agree on that to protect the environment. But it's another thing to have agendas being pushed."
Although he's a newcomer to politics, Barringer said he believes he has what it takes to be an effective legislator.
"I'm an extraordinarily quick study, and I've got a very diligent work ethic," he said. "I put in hours and hours to get stuff done. I've got a lot of stick-to-itiveness."
As a legislator, Olson said she would strive to be "relational."
When asked to define that term, Olson said: "It's the ability to develop relationships with stakeholders at all levels, and that's something I've proven myself to be very good at. I can really get to the heart of an issue and put politics aside and see what's really at stake. I'm good at engaging voices that aren't often a part of the process, and I think that's something that would make me unique is to be able to bring more people to the table. And I think I have a track record both of caring about my community and showcasing that by how I've been involved in the last 12 years."
Both Barringer and Olson said they view recent legislative gridlock as sign of the need for change.
Olson identified "some simple policy things" that could be done.
"We can make sure that the power isn't kept by just a few folks who make decisions on behalf of everyone at the 11th hour," she said. "We can decentralize and have more people be a part of the decision-making process. And we can make sure that bills have a longer time to be read."
Barringer called for a changing of the guard.
"I don't think the Legislature did a good job finishing what needed to be done last session, and I think we need some fresh people in there who are willing to have a better work ethic," he said.
Barringer said representatives from both parties need to do a better job of working together.
"There's a need for compromise, but that needs to come from all sides," he said.
Minnesota House District 7B
- Age: 30
- Occupation: Flight instructor, Lake Superior College
- Education: Working on bachelor's degree from Liberty University, aircraft mechanic certificate from the School of Missionary Aviation Technology
- Elected/civic experience: Served several years with Sons of the Rainforest, a nongovernmental organization engaged in charitable work in the Amazon
- Endorsements: Republican Party
- Family: Single father with 4-year-old son
- Website: codybarringer.com
- Age: 35
- Occupation: Community advocate, organizer
- Education: University of Minnesota Duluth, bachelor's degree in sociology and women's studies; Luther Seminary, master of arts degree
- Elected/civic experience: Former president of League of Women Voters, member of Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Northeast Advisory Council, board member for Firefly Yoga International
- Endorsements: Education Minnesota, Minnesota Professional Firefighters, Take Action Minnesota, Minnesota Nurses Association, Duluth AFL-CIO Central Labor Body, Carpenters Local 361, Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, Women Winning, SEIU, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, Duluth Building and Construction Trades Council, Conservation Minnesota, Minnesota Farmers Union Political Committee and AFSCME Minnesota Council 5
- Family: Husband, Tom, and daughter Florence
- Website: lizforduluth.com