Press Release

Campaign manager Alex Falconer

Peter Wagenius Announces Campaign for State Senate District 59

Running to bring the focus of Government back to middle and working class people

October 31, 2011 (MINNEAPOLIS) – Peter Wagenius, a long-time DFL activist and campaigner for progressive causes who serves as policy director for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, announced today that he is running for State Senate in the special election in District 59 to fill the seat vacated by Senator Larry Pogemiller.

Wagenius said he is running to bring the focus of government back to middle and working class people. He talked about what he hears at community meetings and on the streets of Minneapolis neighborhoods:

“The people of Senate District 59 want to know that State Government is on their side, that action is being taken to improve the economy for everyone. But instead they see cuts to jobs, schools and services that people depend on. They see a tax system that tilts more and more against the middle class. That’s wrong – and we need to stand up and fight.”

He continued, “People who work in cities, counties and schools know how much damage the Republican Legislature’s budget has done. We’ve had to clean up their messes and try to reduce the impact of their cuts. Their budget has weakened Minnesota’s quality of life: a few are doing well, but everyone else is still struggling. Meanwhile, the Republican-led Legislature is broken: it is stuck in stale ways of thinking and has done nothing to turn this crisis around,” Wagenius said.

He continued, “People are tired of hearing that the State can’t do anything about economic inequality — especially when we’ve shown that we can. In Minneapolis, we have created new ways to increase economic justice: in this recession, we’ve gotten people into good jobs, strengthened our communities and laid the groundwork for sustainable prosperity in the 21st-century economy. And we’ve gotten these results despite hostile governors and Legislatures that have repeatedly tried to get in our way.”

As policy director for Mayor Rybak, Wagenius has spearheaded innovations in transit and transportation, fought entrenched interests to protect taxpayers and worked to enhance public safety and health:

  • He has led Minneapolis’ successful efforts to build new transit, improve our roads and bike trails and create new ways to get around — all of which have created good, 21st-century jobs and improved our environment.
  • He has advocated for Minneapolis property taxpayers by fighting for years for an agreement, finally reached in 2011, to overhaul the broken closed-pension system and stop huge tax increases in future years.
  • He stood up to Governor Pawlenty and won, forcing Pawlenty to make the new 35W bridge ready for light-rail transit.
  • He has helped make Minneapolis safer: the funding for police that he fought to restore — after the State cut it— has led to record-low levels of crime.
  • He has helped make Northeast Minneapolis healthier by working to convert the Riverside coal plant to cleaner natural gas.
  • He has improved transparency in government by helping to craft the first comprehensive code of ethics for the City of Minneapolis.

“In Minneapolis, we’ve shown that fresh, innovative thinking and an unwillingness to take ‘no’ for an answer can put us back on the path of economic fairness and justice. I’m upbeat about our future because I know big changes can happen when we work together,” Wagenius said.

Wagenius, 40, grew up in Minneapolis and is a proud graduate of Minneapolis Public Schools. He has lived in Senate District 59 for the past 14 years.

Wagenius put the campaign in a historical context.

“In the 20th century, Minnesotans made critical investments in jobs, education and infrastructure that grew our economy, created broadly shared wealth for the middle class and made us the envy of the country. The Minnesota State Senate was once a leader in creating our world-class public education system, protecting our environment and expanding rights and social justice for all Minnesotans. When Republicans controlled the Governor’s office and the House, it was often the one place we could count on to fight back and do what was right.

“This year, as the Republican Senate has turned its back on that tradition, it has lost a generation of strong progressive leaders: Linda Berglin, Ellen Anderson, the late Linda Scheid, and now Larry Pogemiller, who has served us with great distinction.

“Now it’s time for the next generation of leaders to make new critical investments in our state with a new set of tools and make sure that our government works for ordinary people, not just the privileged.

“I’m ready to lead that change,” Wagenius concluded.

Peter's Bio