East Metro unions will be watching two labor-endorsed candidates for Minnesota Legislature who face competitive challenges in the Aug. 14 primary: Robert Humphrey in Senate District 67 and Peter Fischer in House District 43A.
Humphrey, a longtime political activist on St. Paul’s East Side, has made jobs, economic development and neighborhood livability the focus of his campaign.
“We’ve lost some good union employers while I’ve lived on the East Side,” he said, pointing to 3M, Whirlpool, Stroh’s and others. “I’m familiar with the city and the economic-development process, and I’m effective at getting things done.”
Humphrey is seeking the DFL nomination for the seat held by Sen. John Harrington, who is not running for re-election. District 67, which covers the East Side of St. Paul, leans heavily Democratic, and Humphrey has the endorsement of both Harrington and Rep. Tim Mahoney, a member of Pipefitters Local 455 who represents House District 67A.
Now a manager in the City of St. Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections, Humphrey cut his teeth at the Capitol as a legislative assistant from 1993 to 2001. He worked for six years as an aide to Rep. Tom Rukavina, the Iron Range DFLer known for his commitment to trade unionism.
Since leaving his job at the Capitol in 2001, Humphrey has stayed active in East Side politics, developing connections in the community that, he says, will serve him well in the Legislature, particularly when it comes to spurring economic development.
“We need the state to partner with St. Paul and the St. Paul Port Authority, which has done a good job of creating living-wage jobs,” Humphrey said. “We need to give them the tools they need and work with them at the state level to attract good employers.”
Like Humphrey, Fischer is a longtime DFL activist in the area he’s seeking to represent, a new district that covers parts of Maplewood, White Bear Lake and Mahtomedi.
Fischer works as director of finance and operations at a shelter for homeless youth in Minneapolis. He’s seen firsthand the effect state budget cuts have had on the most vulnerable members of the state’s communities – experience he thinks will benefit his work at the Capitol.
“I’ve got a very good understanding of people who are at a disadvantage, of what they face on a daily basis and knowing what we have to do to help these hard-working people move forward in life,” Fischer said. “If we as a society aren’t able to provide those basics … then when any of us run into a tough time, those services are not going to be there for us either.”
His values, Fischer said, earned his campaign for House District 43A the support of organized labor.
“It’s about respect, fairness and basic human dignity,” he said. “I’ve always been fond of the labor movement because those are their core values too.”