November 07, 2018

Katies were engaged in elections as voters, advocates and candidates

Students ready to hop on the voter van to cast ballots at their polling place.

The St. Catherine University community was engaged in election day. From participating in voter van shuttles to spreading the word about the value of civic engagement to running for elected office, Katies were active during the election season.

This fall, the newly formed Civic Engagement Collective — comprised of faculty, staff and students from across campus — worked on elections education, access and year-round civic engagement programming. The group focused on election day this Fall, providing resources to the community through the St. Kate's Votes web page. The Collective will now quickly switch gears to widen the scope to legislative and policy understanding and engagement.

Also involved in this work was the St. Kate's Student Senate, the governing body of the College for Women, which provided resources to support and facilitate elections engagement efforts.

MN Campus Compact awarded the University a Constitution Day mini-grant, which funded a screening of the movie Iron Jawed Angels, a film about the women's suffrage movement.

The National Campus Election Engagement Proejct (CEEP) awarded St. Kate's a $1,000 to host an Elections Fellow, student Zaynab Abdi. Subsequently, CEEP offered an additional opportunity to apply for elections engagement funding and were awarded $2,000. One of the projects Abdi worked on as the CEEP Elections Fellow was a video on voting.

"In the week leading up to Election Day, there was an election blitz on campus with a prize patrol, visual reminders of Election Day, awareness events on the Minneapolis Campus, and "pizza and politics" programming in every residence hall," said D'Ann Urbaniak Lesch, director of Community Work and Learning and Civic Engagement Collective member. "We asked students questions like what is your past experience with voting, what is your voting plan, and what do you need to know to be able to vote."

On Election Day, the University sponsored a voter van, which provided transportation for resident students to get to their polling place at the Hillcrest Rec Center. The shuttle started running at 8 a.m., when seven students were ready to board the shuttle for voting. At the end of the day, nearly 90 students used the voter van to get to the poll to cast their ballots.

Katies from many political viewpoints were engaged as advocates for their chosen party and/or candidates. From showing support via social media to volunteering for campaigns, students, alumni, faculty and staff were involved in various levels of the elections process. "Engaged citizens make communities stronger, healthier and better able to meet the needs of the people who live in them," explained Urbaniak Lesch. "This is part of the value of a liberal arts education, and specifically a St. Kate's education — our students are not only well prepared to be engaged citizens, they are motivated to be involved in their communities."

A number of St. Kate's graduates stepped forward to run for elected office in in races across the state of Minnesota and beyond.

At the national level, congresswoman Betty McCollum '87, first elected in 2000, was re-elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. McCollum represents District 4, which covers St. Paul, Ramsey County, and much of Washington County. Sarah Wellington MAED'01 was also a candidate for a spot in national government, running for U.S. Senate, but lost to incumbent Tina Smith.

At the state level, Laurie Halverson '02 was re-elected as a Minnesota state representative for District 51B in Eagan, where she's served since 2012. Mary Kunesh-Podein '95 was also re-elected and will serve her second term in the Minnesota House. Kunesh-Podein represents District 41B, which includes Columbia Heights, Hilltop, Saint Anthony and New Brighton. Jon Heyer MAT'92 was a candidate for the Minnesota House in District 66A, but lost to incumbent Alice Hausman.

In Kansas, Barbara King Wasinger '80, who previously served as a county commissioner, ran for a seat in the Kansas House of Representatives, District 111. All precincts have reported, and it's a tight race that remains too close to call before absentee ballots are counted. In the latest reports, Wasinger is ahead of incumbent Eber Phelps by 40 votes.

Two St. Kate's alumnae also won judicial races at the state level in Minnesota. Anne McKeig '89 secured 99.2% of the vote to retain her spot on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Lezlie Ott Marek ‘80, Minnesota 2nd District Court judge, was also re-elected. Both judges ran unopposed.

In Hennepin County, alumna Angela Conley '13 ran a successful race for Hennepin County Commissioner, District 4. With the victory, Conley will be the first black woman to serve on the commission in its 166-year history.

St. Kate's graduates also ran for several races at the municipal level. Anita Pampusch '60, former president of St. Kate's, was re-elected to her seat on the Lilydale (Minnesota) City Council. Val Holthus '90, also retained her city council seat in Andover, Minnesota. Rachel Quick MLIS'07 ran for a seat on the Mendota Heights (Minnesota) City Council while Julie Pointner Korts '90, was a candidate for Plymouth (Minnesota) City Council, but both lost their campaigns. In Rhode Island, Sue Stenhouse '80 ran for mayor of Warwick, but lost to incumbent Joe Solomon.

Did we miss other Katies who were elected or re-elected for public office this November? Let us know! We will update this list if we inadvertently missed someone. Email news@stkate.edu.