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Minnesota's first nonbinary elected state representative wins in Duluth

As a first-time candidate, Alicia Kozlowski has demonstrated an ability to break barriers. They won in eastern Duluth's House 8B race.

Alicia Kozlowski, DFL candidate for Minnesota State House 8B
Alicia Kozlowski, DFL candidate for Minnesota State House District 8B, poses outside the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center's Harbor Side Ballroom where a DFL gathering was held Tuesday.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Alicia Kozlowski has been elected to serve as eastern Duluth’s next District 8B representative in the Minnesota Legislature, becoming the first nonbinary elected state representative in Minnesota and the first Indigenous person from Duluth voted into House.

"Just standing here, this moment is like everything that we've been building for with this community and that I've been building for my whole life," Kozlowski said after learning the results. "It's emotional. I'm taking it all in, because of what we've done. And blazing trails is just a thing I do, shattering barriers and I'm soon to become the first nonbinary elected state representative is an enormous gift and responsibility."

With all of Duluth's precincts reporting Tuesday, Nov. 8, Kozlowski, with 70.95% of the vote, led Republican Becky Hall, with 28.83% in her column.

Running on the DFL ticket, Kozlowski (who uses they/them pronouns) works in communications for the city of Duluth. They graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth as an undergraduate and went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from the College of St. Scholastica. Kozlowski and their partner live in the Hunters Park neighborhood with their 8-year-old child.

Alicia Kozlowski, DFL candidate for Minnesota State House 8B, and members of her campaign team
Alicia Kozlowski, bottom row, second from right, gets in position for a photo with friends and campaign team members Tuesday at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

"I know what it's like to be raised up by this community. I'm living proof of what's possible when people come together and insist and demand that we matter and invest in our people," Kozlowski said at a recent candidate forum. "Against all odds, I'm here as a dealer of hope, precisely as a Latinx, Ojibwe, gender-nonconforming person. It is that ember that burns inside of me that knows that not just one person can rise, that we all can rise together, and we matter."

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Kozlowski said they were inspired to enter politics in large part because of their late father, Ray “Skip” Sandman, a Fond du Lac Band elder, spiritual healer and two-time congressional candidate, who fiercely opposed copper-nickel mining because of the threat it could pose to water quality.

Kozlowski supports "show-it-first legislation" that would require mining companies to demonstrate that copper-nickel mines can operate safely before they are allowed to set up shop in northern Minnesota.

Sandman unexpectedly died last week following a heart attack.

Reflecting on his absence, Kozlowski said, "We started this journey together, and to not have him here is tough for me and it's tough for the community. But I know this is exactly where he'd want to be. And I feel his spirit."

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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