Chris Eaton, a longtime DFL and union activist, says she's running for the vacant Minnesota Senate seat in District 46 in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center. Eaton, who is currently director of health services for Mental Health Resources Inc. in St. Paul, is a registered nurse who belongs to the Minnesota Nurses Association. She says she was also a member of AFSCME for two decades. Eaton says she's been active in DFL politics since George McGovern ran for president in 1972 and served on the DFL State Central Committee.
"I've been one of the worker bees so I know a lot of people," Eaton said. "I have never taken a public role before."
Eaton is running to replace DFL Sen. Linda Scheid, who died in June from ovarian cancer. Eaton says she decided to run for Scheid's seat after talking with Scheid two days before Scheid's death. She says she also consulted other Democrats about her decision to run. Eaton says Scheid and her family encouraged her to run after DFL Rep. Deb Hilstrom, who represents part of the district, declined to make the switch from the House to the Senate.
"She was very excited that I was running," Eaton said of Scheid.
Eaton enters the race with a lot of endorsements. Hilstom and DFL Rep. Mike Nelson - who also represents part of the district - are backing her. She also has the DFL Party's endorsement and is backed by WomenWinning, the Teamsters and the Minnesota Nurses Association. She is also married to Brooklyn Center Mayor Tim Willson.
Eaton says her top concerns are the economy, health care and the state budget. She says she's also concerned about the level of gridlock at the State Capitol. She said she would support tax increases to help fix the state's long-term budget problems.
"We clearly need to raise revenue and I would start with Gov. Dayton's plan," Eaton said. "We put a small percentage tax on stadiums. I would certainly think we could do it to make sure our schools are running and our health care was funded and our roads are being repaired."
Eaton is ramping up her campaign in a shortened campaign cycle. Gov. Dayton has called a general election for October 18. A primary, if necessary, will be held on September 13. Candidates can file for the elections between July 27 and August 3. The district is represented by Democrats but there's no guarantee that Eaton will win in October.
"We have never won a special election in this district," Eaton said referring to races that included Darlene Luther, Mike Nelson and Linda Scheid. All three lost special elections but later won in general elections. "I'm going to start a new trend."
Tom Reynolds is running as a member of the Independence Party. No Republican candidate has formed a campaign committee for the race.