HOT Topics in Politics: Women Representing Rochester

In the midst of the ever-changing world of politics, heated discussions sometimes take place. State Representatives Kim Norton and Tina Liebling and Senator Carla Nelson represent our local community on the state level, sharing their knowledge and voices in St. Paul, Minnesota. These women have had an impact in legislative decisions in their years of service.

Senator Carla Nelson is committed to encouraging women to pursue public office and empowering women who currently serve in office. “Our government will be richer and better with a wide spectrum of diverse women in elected offices,” she says.

Representative Kim Norton says, “Women are of critical value in the political system, just as they are in the business world or in the familial framework.” Women offer ways of thinking that help balance and improve decision-making. 


According to Representative Tina Liebling, studies have shown that women don’t usually run for elected office unless they are asked, and that may be because women underestimate their own ability. But she knows the importance of women in politics. “As the percentage of women in a legislative body grows, its culture changes too,” says Representative Liebling. “It becomes less focused on gamesmanship and more on solving real problems.” 

Meeting people and learning about their concerns is very rewarding. For Representative Liebling, politics is about improving lives. She feels that more women are needed to step forward and lead. “You don’t have to know everything. Help is available. Do it!” she says. 

An early goal of League of Women Voters (LWV) was to convince women to vote and seek office. During the 1960s and 1970s, a wave of consciousness resulted in women taking a more factive role in all levels of politics. Jane A. Callahan, president of the Rochester Chapter of LWV says, “Between 1970 and 1990 Olmsted County experienced many historic moments as women for the first time were elected to the Rochester City Council, the Board of Commissioners and the Minnesota Senate.”

Early Education 

One of the hottest topics in politics is the importance of educational funding. “I have been a long and strong supporter of high quality early learning scholarships,” Senator Nelson says. These scholarships target resources for early learning, including high-quality preschools, whether district-led, center-based, in-home or nonprofit. Targeting resources for early learning makes more funds available.

According to Representative Norton, class sizes, preschools, length of kindergarten, length of the school week academic calendar decisions all require funding. Districts are highly dependent on funding from the state.  “If the state wants to direct more specific services, then they should create a formula for paying schools the actual costs to provide those services,” says Representative Norton. The state of Minnesota has a long and proud history of having a highly educated population.

Representative Liebling states, “Hardworking and well-prepared younger people are greatly needed.” Like other states, Minnesota’s’ population is aging, and young people are needed to work and pay taxes to support their elders. This will be a challenge, and we need to prepare and invest in young people from all backgrounds. “This means education and healthcare for all young people and extra support for families that need it,” says Liebling.


Healthcare is a widely talked about topic in politics today. “Minnesota has been working on healthcare reform since 2008,” says Representative Norton. “The initial focus was on creating efficiency through medical homes, preventive care, bundled payments and electronic health records.” 

Ensuring coverage for Minnesota citizens has always been sought by the state. MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance cover about 13 percent of the state’s population. MNSure started in 2014, with the beginning of the Affordable Care Act, and has helped to decrease the number of uninsured Minnesotans.

 “Healthcare must be accessible, affordable and of high quality,” says Senator Nelson. Healthcare challenges increase with an aging population. She is committed to ensuring patient choice in healthcare.

Anne M. Scherer is a freelance writer living in Rochester.