Ruth Richardson says her background provides a missing perspective
This article is the fourth in an occasional series profiling candidates running for various offices and how their election might impact our communities.
Though a first-time political candidate, Ruth Richardson has years of senior leadership experience in for-profit, nonprofit and government organizations. She’s often shared that she worked three jobs to put herself through law school and already has experience working on bipartisan legislative initiatives. The DFL-endorsed candidate now has her eyes set on the U.S. House of Representatives seat in District 52B.
Her campaign’s focus is on issues like women’s rights, affordable health care, and equitable access to education, according to her campaign website. Growing up in a large working-class family with six siblings, Richardson attributes her platform’s progressive values to her parents.
“We all do better when we all do better,” she said in a prepared statement. “I remember when there was civility in politics. I want to lead by example and bring decency and respect back into office.”
The following are Richardson’s responses to the MSR’s questions:
MSR: What is the most important thing you want to accomplish if you get elected into office?Ruth Richardson: Many of the issues I am concerned about are very intersectional in terms of thinking about ensuring that our schools are working for our kids. [They tie] into things related to health as well. To kind of sum it up, my goal is really going to be looking at legislation in terms of the issue of equity and ensuring that we are building a state that is going to work for everyone.
MSR: What is the most controversial issue you think you will face if elected and how will you deal with it?
RR: Right now, some of the issues that we have been hearing about in my district, where there is a fair amount of controversy, are related to gun safety issues. There are lots of differing opinions, and my goal is to really look at doing what, I think, 97 percent of Americans support and ensure that we are implementing universal criminal background checks for gun purchases.
I know that is one thing that didn’t get anywhere this last legislative session, but that is definitely an issue…that I am seeing within my own district.
I plan to continue to fight to ensure that we are actually getting hearings on those issues. This legislative session, there were no hearings that were even held on the issues. The goal is to ensure that we’re following through with what our constituents really want [and] to ensure that, first and foremost, their kids are safe in schools, and also ensure that people are safe wherever they are within their communities.
MSR: How do we get money out of politics?
RR: When I got into this race, a lot of people were talking about all of this money in politics. Well, it definitely hasn’t been flowing to our campaign from that perspective, but part of the issue is really going to be looking at campaign finance reform. We do, in Minnesota, have several elements that are in place here. But, when we are thinking about our elections and our democracy, I think we have come to a place where people are more concerned with how much money they can get from special interest groups than actually listening to their constituents.
And, I think a big part of this is also ensuring that people get out and they vote and they have their voices heard. There is no politician, there is no candidate, that is going to be able to save the world. We’re going to have to save ourselves, so I think that it is about ensuring that people are turning up, turning out and speaking up. That’s what actually is going to make a change.
MSR: What do you say to people who say they do not like politics or politicians?
RR: I say that, with what we see going on right now within politics, for a lot of people from the outside looking in, there is a lot of concern. And, myself, I am not a traditional candidate, I’m a first-time candidate, and I don’t really think of myself as a politician. I think of myself more as a professional problem solver.
What we have missing a lot from politics are common-sense approaches from people who really understand the day-to-day realities that a lot of families are going through. I’m a first-generation college student who grew up in a large working-class family.
I know what it’s like to be poor. I know what it’s like to struggle, I know what it’s like to work hard. We need to get more of those perspectives at the capitol, and I think can help change that negative perception of politics.
MSR: What is your favorite thing about your district?
RR: I would say the people. I have met a lot of great neighbors and advocates and people during my campaign.
When I jumped into this race a couple of weeks before caucuses, I didn’t really know what to expect… I have met some very amazing and dedicated people and people who, regardless of the outcome of this election, I know will be friends in the future.
MSR: What elected officials past or present do you admire?
RR: Over the last few months, I have gotten a chance to talk to a number of people that I’ve personally been inspired by. Some of the people who I have been most inspired by are people that I have never met. Shirley Chisholm is one that I take a lot of inspiration from. I never had the opportunity to meet her, but I see her as a real trailblazer – especially for women of color who are breaking into politics.
Some of the folks here, locally, that I’ve been really inspired by are Erin Maye Quade. I am very inspired by her run, and she has also been a really great support to me.
MSR: What is the greatest impact your position will have on the African American community?
RR: My run for office is really an extension of work that I’ve been doing within our community for well over a decade, and some of the issues I have been working on that I think have a real impact on the African American community are things like maternal birth outcomes within the African American community.
I currently co-chair a task force that is looking at the really poor birth outcomes that we are seeing in the African American community. We know that, regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of educational attainment, African American women’s birth outcomes who are college-educated look worse than women who are White who didn’t graduate from high school.
So, I am hoping to be able to advance more efforts to ensure we are having health equity in relation to birth outcomes. [That] is something that is very important to me.