Kelsey Waits, a member of the Hastings School Board since 2017, announced last week that she is running for the Minnesota House of Representatives District 54B seat in 2020.

She said the district’s main issues are education and its funding, clean water and health care. Waits plans to build off of those with a series of “community conversations” where she hopes to collaborate with residents to identify other issues and the solutions.

“I believe in a different type of politics. I believe in a politics that is positive, that empowers people and works to achieve real results for our district,” Waits said. “In order to do that, our district deserves to have a bold leader.”

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Waits, a Democrat, will challenge for a seat that has been filled by Republican Rep. Tony Jurgens since 2016.

In his first election, Jurgens won handily over Donald Slaten by over 11 points. However, Jurgens narrowly retained his seat in 2018 when he beat out Hastings City Council member Tina Folch by about 2% to retain his seat.

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Waits said that didn’t play a role in her decision to run.

“In this district everyone kind of moves their ballots, we don’t have straight ticket voters in this district,” she said. “So yes the gap has shrunk, but in this district I really feel that it’s the person [not the party.]”

Waits isn’t focused on Jurgens’ performance, rather on the issues the district faces, she said.

“I’m running for the office, more than I’m running against someone,” Waits said. “I think Minnesota is tired of pointing fingers and I really don’t want to bring this district down that road.”

Waits said as a school board member, she advocated for the school district at the Capitol last legislative session. That experience played a major role in her decision to run, saying that showed her that state politics can be bogged down by divisiveness.

Waits said she would focus on shared values and collaboration to break through that perceived gridlock.

“I think a lot of people, when you use the word collaborate, they get afraid, that you’re going to give up something, that you’re going to compromise your values,” she said. “We need to find the shared values and that’s where we start our work.”

Waits will hold a kickoff event for her candidacy from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1 at Spiral Brewery.