Rochester activist joins hunt for Walz 1st District seat

Published 8:20 am Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Regina Mustafa

Rochester activist Regina Mustafa announced her candidacy for the open 1st Congressional District seat on Monday, to be decided in 2018.

Mustafa has experience in creating understanding among diverse communities in southern Minnesota, according to a press release announcing her candidacy.

“Regina’s ability to bring people together from all walks of life and foster unity can help tackle some of the biggest challenges we are facing as a nation, such as health care and affordable housing,” the press release stated.

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Mustafa said she has lived in southern Minnesota for 12 years and can’t imagine a better place to raise her children, work and continue her education.

“I want that same opportunity for every Minnesotan, whether you are newly-arrived or your family has been here for generations,” she said.

The press release said Mustafa — a Muslim who is legally blind — understands the challenges people can face and is “determined to give everyone a voice and help all Minnesotans utilize their unique gifts towards the greater good.”

Mustafa, 37, is one of seven DFLers to officially announce a run for the seat being vacated by 1st District DFL Rep. Tim Walz, who announced in March he would run for governor in 2018. Other DFLers running are U.S. Army veteran Dan Feehan, former state Sen. Vicki Jensen, electronic pull-tabs salesman Colin Minehart, Byron teacher John Austinson, Rochester website developer Johnny Akzam and Mankato resident Joe Sullivan, who announced his candidacy on Tuesday.

Mustafa moved to southern Minnesota 12 years ago from Philadelphia. She had planned to become a border patrol agent but was diagnosed at age 21 with Stargardt disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration that results in legal blindness.

Mustafa, who taught English in South Korea, is earning a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Winona State University.

Mustafa founded the nonprofit Community Interfaith Dialogue on Islam three years ago, and she serves on the city of Rochester’s Ethical Practices Board and Olmsted County Human Rights Commission. In 2016, she received the Mayor’s Medal of Honor in Rochester.

So far, only one Republican was running for the seat as of Monday: Blue Earth Republican Jim Hagedorn. He narrowly lost to Walz in November. Other Republicans considering running for the seat are Rochester Sen. Carla Nelson, Stewartville Rep. Nels Pierson and Luverne Rep. Joe Schomacker.  

Mustafa kickoff  is Thursday

A campaign kickoff event for Regina Mustafa is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at The Jive Mill in Rochester.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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