Four newcomers elected to UMN Board of Regents, including a St. Paul DFLer backed by Republicans

Lawmakers on Monday elected four new members to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, passing over two incumbents and choosing one favored by the short-handed Republican Party.

Michael Hsu, of Blaine, who often votes against the administration’s proposals on tuition hikes and other issues, lost his bid for a second six-year term.

So did Hsu’s frequent ally, Worthington’s Randy Simonson, who couldn’t get past the Regent Candidate Advisory Council’s screening process and was not considered by the full Legislature.

Taking Hsu’s place representing the 6th Congressional District will be Kodi VerHalen, an attorney and engineer from Elk River who attended the University of Minnesota Duluth. She had the DFL Party’s support on a close vote with few party defectors.

Mayo Clinic Dr. Ruth Johnson will take Simonson’s 1st District seat, holding DFL support in edging out agricultural teacher Val Aarsvold. Johnson, who lives in Rochester, served 17 years as a regent for her alma mater, Augsburg University, until 2011.

Another medical doctor, Patricia Simmons, held the same seat until resigning in 2018.

Several Republicans joined the DFL in electing Doug Huebsch of Perham for the 7th District seat. A University of Minnesota graduate, Huebsch is a farmer and auto parts store owner who recently retired as chairman of the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners.

JAMES FARNSWORTH

The 4th District seat went to 22-year-old James Farnsworth, of St. Paul, a University of Minnesota graduate and executive director of the Highland Business Association.

Farnsworth was one of three candidates forwarded by the advisory council, but a group of lawmakers left him out when paring the list of finalists from 12 to eight.

On Monday, however, Farnsworth received a floor nomination from a Republican, then went on to narrowly defeat Brandon Alkire, an attorney who would have been the U’s first Native American regent.

Attorney Karen Schanfield had some early votes from DFLers but most changed their votes to Alkire as he and Farnsworth surged ahead.

Although Farnsworth was elected by Republicans, as well as a handful of DFLers, he is a Democrat.

“I’m still processing it,” he said Monday night. “Regent elections are really complicated.”

Farnsworth also is running for a seat on the St. Paul school board in November and is interviewing Tuesday to fill a short-term vacancy on that board. He said Monday his election as a regent is unlikely to change those plans.

Regent Richard Beeson is leaving the Board of Regents after two terms and Thomas Anderson after one.

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