I am Ray, a fourth-generation Northsider, currently living in the Jordan neighborhood. I'm a proud graduate of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Thank you for the opportunity to earn your trust and your vote. I hope we get to have a conversation—be it at your door, on the phone, in a coffee shop, or brewery—maybe at one of the community events that my team and I will host this year.
Like many who grow up with little opportunity, experience the justice system from the inside, and struggle to find their way, I have walked the path of those who have been forgotten and left to fend for themselves. With the help of my community and all who have embraced me, I was blessed with the opportunity to chart a new direction for my life. I am humbled to be a candidate for Minneapolis’ highest executive office. I am thankful for the efforts of my family, friends, and supportive community.
I grew up with my three siblings in Brooklyn Park. A working-class household, my parents raised the four of us in 630 square-foot home. My father, a teamster, spent his days operating a warehouse forklift. My mother worked part-time for a company that made toilet paper wraps for American soldiers stationed in Vietnam. For additional income, my father would plow snow every winter, and all of us kids had paper routes. I remember excitedly eating pancake dinners, thinking it was a treat. In reality, we relied on each paycheck.
I did OK in school, both as a student and as a member of the wrestling team. As a young man, I made some bad decisions. I started drinking and taking drugs during my teen years. Eventually I was using cocaine and in need of money to support my habit. In 1976, I was arrested and convicted of burglary—an incident that allowed me to repurpose my life. After serving seven months, I was released to a drug treatment program at Hennepin County Medical Center where I developed relationships with people who have helped me stay sober for 40 years. Wanting to vote once again, I applied for and received a full pardon from the State of Minnesota in 1982. I am privileged. I live as if I never committed an offense. It’s systemically unfair. Many of my peers will not be given the same opportunity the system gave me—a straight, white man.
With my second chance, I went back to school. I graduated from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in 1993 with a degree in architecture. I am still repaying my student loans. As the national president of the American Institute of Architecture Students, I traveled the country advocating for 35,000 architecture students in the U.S. and Canada. I learned the power of grassroots organizing. Later in life, I moved to the Northside, bought a house with my then-partner, and got involved in my community as a member of the neighborhood board. I watched the home foreclosure crisis develop. Brokers sold subprime mortgages and refinancing to vulnerable Northside families. This was wrong, so I decided to get organized.
I worked on home foreclosure prevention, criminal justice reform, and establishing equitable access to public transportation. Through the Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition, I connected my neighbors to assistance in the event that they fell behind on their monthly payments. I got involved in electoral politics, volunteering for the late Senator Paul Wellstone, and with then State Representative Keith Ellison. I was also awarded a Bush Fellowship, which I spent studying how people are affected by the way we build cities.
All this led me toward running for—and being elected to—the State Legislature in 2012. It is a privilege to work at our Capitol representing my wonderful people in District 59B, which includes the Northside, Bryn Mawr, North Loop, Elliott Park, and Downtown.