Two women, both first-time candidates, are competing in Tuesday’s House District 65B DFL primary election for the seat being vacated by Rep. Carlos Mariani of St. Paul, who held the office for more than 30 years.
María Isa Pérez-Hedges, 34, is the DFL-endorsed candidate, and Anna Botz, 47, is challenging Pérez-Hedges for the party’s nomination in a district that includes downtown and the West Side of St. Paul and part of West St. Paul. Both candidates are West Side residents and are long-time community activists.
Pérez-Hedges is an international recording artist and director of the Twin Cities Mobile Jazz Project. She has been a leader in a youth multicultural community arts program that collaborates with public schools throughout Minnesota for two decades.
A Type 1 diabetic, she first got involved in politics as a lobbyist to help pass the 2020 Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, which aims to hold down insulin costs for diabetics. She serves on a state Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board task force that is charged with making the statehouse a welcoming space for all Minnesotans.
Botz, 47, is a professional photographer and owner of a small photo studio on the West Side. A South St. Paul native, she has been a leader in West Side community block clubs and youth summer camps. She also has been active in international environmental projects.
Botz calls herself a “moderate liberal,” saying she identifies with earlier generations of Democrats who fought for working-class citizens and often bucked wealthy corporations.
She said she “supports legal protection for the unborn and their mothers.” That’s the major policy difference between her and Pérez-Hedges, an abortion rights advocate.
If elected, Botz said her top priority would be “responsive leadership. … We need to go where the people are.”
Her strongest policy interest is in environmental protection. She said she would work to create “good-paying renewable energy jobs” in the state, protect water quality and restrict use of hazardous chemicals. She also wants to help “protect children from being exploited.”
As a lawmaker, Pérez-Hedges said she would “continue to advocate for an ethical health care system that puts people before profits.” That includes universal health care for all Minnesotans and increased funding for mental health care for young people.
Pérez-Hedges also pledged to “champion a public education system that allows our youth from immigrant families, communities of color and low-income households to thrive.” In addition, she said she would work to provide more affordable housing for renters and working-class families, more economic opportunities for small businesses and strive for “environmental justice.”