The Shane Hudella for House campaign removed this banner from in front of a residence on Hwy. 55 after a complaint to the Hastings United Way. Photo courtesy of Hudella for House Facebook page.
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United Way caught in the crossfire in banner flap

Candidates speak out urging community support for organization

While politicians across party lines have supported the United Way of Hastings by purchasing promotional banners promoting the organization and its annual appeal, a complaint received by the United Way and its national organization about a banner purchased by the Shane Hudella for House campaign led to the candidate removing it.

Republican Shane Hudella said that he supported the United Way by purchasing the banner at a cost of $500. The local practice to lend financial support to the United Way while also promoting candidacy has been done before.

Hudella is competing with Minnesota DFL candidate Tina Folch for the Minnesota State House of Representatives set in district 41B. Both are Hastings residents.

Hudella said last week he was informed by the United Way that a complaint was received about his banner, which was placed in a yard on Hwy. 55, just west of Vermillion Street.

“My campaign purchased a banner like candidates from both sides of the aisle have done historically,” said Hudella. “A local activist on the other side of the aisle decided to lodge a complaint against the Hastings United Way. They thought it was an appearance that they are taking sides in the race.”

Hudella removed the banner but is left with strong opinions of what happened.

“The Hastings United Way reached out to me to let me know. In an effort to keep them out of hot water with the activist group, I did remove the banner,” he said. “I think it’s important for the community to know about some of these folks on the other side, that they are so much against me being a political candidate. They didn’t have any reservations in trying to get our beloved United Way in trouble. It was shocking that someone would stoop to that level, especially since it’s been a tradition in recent years.

“Out of respect for the United Way, I did remove the banner. We did consult with legal counsel from the Republican Party who indicated that the banner in no way jeopardizes the nonprofit status for the United Way in any regard. My campaign is working to protect our United Way. They do so much fighting for the community. They’re working so hard to shine the light on the fentanyl crisis and help.”

Hudella wouldn’t name who filed the complaint without first consulting counsel.

“It’s really unfortunate that this is the state of politics,” he said. “It’s just wrong. The United Way is going to have to address new policy now. They’re going to have to make up for the loss of revenue they were receiving from both sides of the aisle. There are really no winners in this scenario at all. If anything, the community loses.”

The United Way of Hastings was reached out to for comment on the matter but did not respond.

District 54 DFL State Senator Karla Bigham said she purchased a banner for her campaign in 2020.

“I had a banner in 2020 through the United Way fundraising campaign,” she said.

Asked her opinion on the Hudella banner situation, she said, “Respectfully, I am not going to comment on someone else’s campaign.”

Current 54B State Representative Tony Jurgens said he followed Bigham’s lead and supported the United Way with banner purchases also.

“Senator Karla Bigham, a Democrat, had a United Way banner several years ago, and I thought that was a brilliant idea to show support for a great organization like United Way of Hastings. That gave me the idea to do the same. I’ve also had a banner for the last couple years and no one in the City of Hastings ever filed a complaint against Karla or me. In my opinion this attack is clearly politically motivated.

“United Way of Hastings is leading the charge locally towards addressing the crisis of fentanyl poisoning amongst our young people. Instead of having complete focus on this problem, they are forced to waste time on this unnecessary political nonsense.”

Folch said the complaint did not come from her campaign, and she appreciates the work the United Way does in Hastings.

“I wasn’t aware that there was a complaint made against the Hudella campaign. It wasn’t until I had someone draw my attention to his media post that I became aware of it,” she said.

She said she wasn’t contacted by the United Way about a banner purchase, but she’s not sure how they fit with state campaign law.

“Although I did not consider it, I may not have as a candidate because Minnesota Campaign Finance Laws are tricky,” she said, citing statutory wording: “A religious, charitable, or educational organization may not request a candidate or committee to contribute to the organization, to subscribe for the support of a club or organization, to buy tickets to entertainment, or to pay for space in a publication” Overall, though, she wishes the best for the United Way.

“The United Way has done great work for the community of Hastings. And I would encourage folks to support their educational efforts,” Folch said. ***

Support the United Way of Hastings

The United Way of Hastings has launched an initiative supported by its annual appeal to build awareness about fentanyl and other drug abuse.

Donate to the United Way of Hastings to help in their efforts. Checks can be sent to: United Way of Hastings P.O. Box 353 Hastings, MN 55033 For more information on all the United Way of Hastings does for the community, visit unitedwayofhastings.org


State Sen. Karla Bigham supported the Hastings United Way with a banner (pictured) in 2020.Photo submitted

September 28, 2022