Bigham changes direction to run for county board seat

Posted 2/23/22

By Bruce Karnick [email protected] On Sunday, State Senator Karla Bigham announced that she will not seek re-election to her Minnesota State Senate seat. Instead, Bigham will run for a position …

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Bigham changes direction to run for county board seat


By Bruce Karnick

[email protected]

On Sunday, State Senator Karla Bigham announced that she will not seek re-election to her Minnesota State Senate seat.

Instead, Bigham will run for a position on the Washington County Board of Commissioners this November.

Bigham has represented communities in Washington and Dakota Counties in the Senate for the past five years.

In deciding to run for the Washington County Board, Bigham said: “I have enjoyed my service in the Minnesota State Senate. My heart and soul is in service to South Washington County. My passion for public service is motivated by working on issues that impact the communities I know best, including my hometown of Cottage Grove. As a Washington County Commissioner, I intend to continue advocating for clean water, workforce development, mental health services, chemical health programs, and infrastructure that serves the needs of our growing communities. It’s been an honor to serve in the state legislature, and I will work hard to earn voters' trust to serve on the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

In an interview Monday with the Hastings Journal, Bigham commented on the changing local political landscape.

“What a whirlwind 24 hours this has been,” she said. “I just got off the phone with Tony.”

She was referring to Tony Jurgens local MN House of Representative. The two of them both were elected to their seats at the same time, and both an- nounced changes to their current positions within moments of each other.

Bigham answered the obvious question out of the gate: Why? “Redistricting really changed the geography of the current district and I'm a townie from Cottage Grove who has deep roots in South Washington County and northern Dakota County. A significant part of that is no longer part of the area that I would represent. And I really feel that my passion is in South Washington County and representing them, representing the people on the issues that are important to them that I know. On the county board, I feel is my strength to be able to bring that voice through the relationships I have built through the years, but also my knowledge on the on the topics, whether it's infrastructure, mental health programming, chemical health services and social services, but also water, waste management, and transit. All these issues that I have spent a long time working on and I intend to earn the votes to hopefully return back to the Washington County Board of Commissioners.”

Redistricting by law is scheduled to take place after the census every 10 years. That means for senators, when elected in a zero year, 2000, 2010, 2020, their term is only going to be two years, not four like they would be in elections that take place is 2022 and 2026. Bigham knew this was coming. What she did not know was that the district redraw would be so drastic and cut out a large portion of Cottage Grove, Newport and St. Paul Park.

“[The redistricting was] the crux of my decision, I have a lot to give still, and I want to continue to be the voice on issues that I know are so important to the residents of South Washington County. That is why I decided to continue to serve the communities that I know and love and that are the heart and soul of what I've known in my elected tenure,” explained Bigham.

That means she has this legislative session to see through some bills that she has put a lot of time and effort into. First priority is having a bonding bill which is a jobs bill. The bonding bill also includes the Hastings Civics Center and charging station. It also includes investments in the Hastings Veterans Home and includes investments in infrastructure like roads and bridges.

“We have a surplus and next week we're going to get an update which I think is going to tell us it's going to even be larger. My priority is looking at working middle class tax cuts, because those are the folks that had been hit so hard during this pandemic, helping our frontline workers and making sure that they're paid the bonus that they were promised. We already last week passed replenishing the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Hopefully the House will pass that soon. Probably the top priority and I just did a press conference on it today was retention and recruitment for law enforcement, to make sure we have enough officers that reflects the community and are able to do that proactive policing, preventative policing, community policing, so that we all have these relationships that keep our community safe.”

Her other goals before she steps away include passing a bill that would legalize sports wagering in MN.

“I think legalization of sports wagering has a very significant chance of passing. I think we are extremely close to having an agreement and I'm hoping that that progress continues. The legalization of marijuana, the Republicans in the Senate do not want it, they're not going to hear it. They're not going to move it. So, there's no change on that,” added Bigham.

The election in November is likely to have a lot of significant changes around the state due to the redistricting and it’s already shaking things up in this corner of the world. The area of Cottage Grove and Hastings will surely see one new face in our state representatives with Bigham looking to return to the county level for 2023 and Jurgens running for a Senate seat.

Bigham, a Democrat, was elected in 2018 to the Minnesota Senate, having previously served as a Washington County Commissioner, two terms in the Minnesota House, and as a member of the Cottage Grove City Council. Senator Bigham is a lifelong resident of the area, having graduated from Park High School in Cottage Grove. She received her bachelor’s degree as a Paralegal, with minors in Sociology and Political Science from Winona State University. She obtained a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota. She is a paralegal at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office in the Child Protection Division. Karla and her husband, John Stechmann, live in Cottage Grove.