Poppe makes affordable housing a priority

Published 7:47 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rep. Jeanne Poppe looks over a voter print-out from Ward 1, Precinct 2 Tuesday night at El Mariachi. Rep. Poppe was looking to be re-elected in 27B. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

For Jeanne Poppe, it all comes down to knocking on doors.

The state District 27B representative captured her fifth term Tuesday, defeating challenger Nathan Neitzell 11,480 to 6,785 votes. The race never seemed to be out of Poppe’s grasp, and her victory signifies support for Democrats hasn’t left Mower County.

“It’s always a wonderful experience to win the election and to know that I do have a lot of support,” Poppe, DFL-Austin, said. “I do represent all of the poeple, so it’s important to be able to continue having those lines of communication open.”

Email newsletter signup

Poppe is one of many incumbents to enjoy re-election, as Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm and County Commissioner Tim Gabrielson all kept their seats Tuesday.

Neitzell wished Poppe well and said the margin of his loss caught him by surprise.

“I honestly did not imagine such a spread,” he said. “It makes me think that no matter what I could have done it was not going to go my way.”

Part of the deciding factor, he added, was a high turnout of first-time voters, who usually vote Democrat.

Poppe out-raised Neitzell during the campaign, garnering $13,233 in contributions this year as of Oct. 29 compared to Neitzell’s $5,108.75 in donations as of Oct. 28. Yet only two Austin residents were listed as individual donors to Poppe’s campaign. Poppe admits she could have been more aggressive in seeking donations, but she said her experience knocking on doors as a state representative and serving on the Austin City Council for eight years prior to her 2004 election to the state House of Representatives.

“It’s all about knocking on those doors,” she said.

Yet her impact on Austin will only be determined by how well the state Legislature works together. While she hopes her fellow legislators will be able to come together on the issues, Poppe hinted partisan gridlock could continue to negatively affect the state government.

“It kind of depends on the results throughout the state … as far as the number of House members that are Democrats and the number that are Republicans,” Poppe said. “We need to have problem-solvers at the table. In the last election, there were a number of people … their purpose was never to solve problems. Their purpose was to be obstructionist.”

While Poppe has done much over the past two years, including co-sponsoring a bill to enact harsher sentences for child abuse-related crimes and securing funding for The Hormel Institute, she has a few pet projects she hopes to work on over the next two years.

A counselor at Riverland Community College, Poppe said making higher education more affordable for the state’s students is a must. Getting involved in health reform will be an important goal too, as baby-boomers will soon start retiring in droves and more seniors will need access to health care.

One of the most interesting challenges Poppe hopes to tackle is housing in Mower County and across the state. About 14 percent of Mower County residents live in poverty, and Poppe said she’s seen the gap between well-off families and struggling families in the district.

“We almost see the greatest wealth and the greatest poverty in our area,” she said. “I think we have people living in conditions that they shouldn’t be living in. In Minnesota, that’s something I think we can spend some time trying to figure out how we can provide housing options for some people.”

[table id=78 /]