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Folstrom enters race for House 4A seat

Irene Folstrom, a former state Senate candidate, entered the open race for House 4A on Sunday, hoping to fill the void left by Assistant House Majority Leader Frank Moe's sudden announcement he won't seek re-election.

Irene Folstrom, a former state Senate candidate, entered the open race for House 4A on Sunday, hoping to fill the void left by Assistant House Majority Leader Frank Moe's sudden announcement he won't seek re-election.

Moe, DFL-Bemidji, told DFL delegates gathered Saturday in Walker to endorse his bid for a third term that he will not run again, seeking the need to spend time with family and to complete a doctorate degree in education.

The announcement stunned delegates, who put off an endorsement until candidates are found.

Folstrom, a Cass Lake native who lives in Bemidji, announced late Sunday night that she would formally file her campaign later this week and will seek the DFL endorsement to succeed Moe. She sought endorsement for the state Senate 4 post in 2006, withdrawing at the endorsement convention - also in Walker - to allow Mary Olson of Bemidji to claim unanimous endorsement.

"My desire to pursue a position in public service lies in my belief that our area will continue to need a strong DFL advocate in our Legislature and my upbringing taught me that we must protect our environment, ensure our children receive exemplary educations, and that we must stand up for those that do not have a voice in our society, including the poor and uninsured," Folstrom said in a statement.

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She said she would bring to the campaign the same issues she campaigned on in 2006 - education, environment, the economy and health care.

"I am very excited to bring these important issues back to the table," she said. "I am also incredibly concerned about our local economy and plan on making this issue an important facet of my campaign. I look forward to the race and am honored to be considered for such a position."

Pam McCrory, the new Senate 4 DFL chairwoman, said the district's executive committee would immediately decide on a search committee to find and screen candidates. It is assumed that Folstrom will need to meet with the panel to be considered for eventual DFL endorsement. Another name being thrown around by DFL insiders is John Persell, a Beltrami Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor, who twice sought DFL endorsement for the House 4A post.

Folstrom said she will file for candidacy with the state Campaign Finance Disclosure Board later this week for the open seat. Folstrom, a 1993 graduate of Cass Lake-Bena High School and a Stanford University and Cornell Law School graduate, now works with the Red Lake Tribal Courts system. She was born and raised in Cass Lake and is a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. She is married to Brett Masayesva, a physician at the Red Lake Indian Public Health Service Hospital, and the couple has two boys.

Folstrom, who was a stellar athlete at Cass Lake-Bena High School, as she joined the 2006 Senate race, attended a Wellstone Action conference, as did Moe when he first ran for the House 4A seat. She also had support and training from the Indigenous Democratic Network is a grass-roots national political organization seeking to recruit and elect American Indian candidates and in mobilizing the Indian vote.

After getting a bachelor's degree in American studies from Stanford in California, Folstrom got her law degree from Cornell in New York. She spent four years working on national legislative issues for the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C.

She met her husband while at Stanford. Masayesva, a Hopi tribal member, transferred his residency from Johns Hopkins University to Arizona to be near family after a death in 2005, Folstrom said. He was able to do a residency tour at a Bemidji-area hospital before completing his medical education.

Republicans have yet to endorse their House 4A candidate, but if indications hold true from a Beltrami County GOP fundraiser earlier this month, Tony Williams of Bemidji is the heir apparent for that nod. Williams was introduced to attendees by former Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, whom Olson beat in 2006. Also at the event, the Rev. David Myers, who lost to Moe in 2006, formally ended his second bid for the post and said he would support Williams, hoping to send remaining campaign funds to his campaign.

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Beltrami County Republican Chairwoman Kath Molitor said she was aware of no other candidates who may seek GOP endorsement; at least none have made themselves known to party officials.

Williams works in the family business, M&M Furniture of Bemidji, and was raised in Cass Lake where he is a Cass Lake-Bena High School graduate. He took some Bemidji State University classes while in high school, part of a state program that allows seniors to take college course while still in high school.

The House 4A race is his first foray into partisan politics, but Williams told the Bemidji Pioneer that he has "strong beliefs and strong values and I want to advocate where change can be made."

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