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Mustafa to run for Congress

Rochester activist Regina Mustafa announced Monday she is running for the open 1st Congressional District seat.

Rochester activist Regina Mustafa announced Monday she is running for the open 1st Congressional District seat.

In an interview, Mustafa said she is making a bid to continue her efforts to bring people in southern Minnesota together.

"For years now, I've been willing to come to the table and have been the one to encourage people of opposing beliefs and views as mine to come together and find common ground," she said.

Mustafa is the sixth Democrat to officially announce a run for the seat being vacated by 1st District DFL Rep. Tim Walz, who is running for governor in 2018. Other DFLers running are Rochester website developer Johnny Akzam, Byron teacher John Austinson, U.S. Army veteran Dan Feehan, former state Sen. Vicki Jensen and electronic pull-tabs salesman Colin Minehart. A seventh DFLer, Mankato attorney Joe Sullivan, is also considering a run.

So far, one Republican is running for the seat — Blue Earth Republican Jim Hagedorn. He narrowly lost to Walz in November. Other Republicans considering running for the seat are Rochester Sen. Carla Nelson, Stewartville Rep. Nels Pierson and Luverne Rep. Joe Schomacker.


Mustafa is planning a campaign kick-off event on Thursday night in Rochester. The 37-year-old said she has been mulling a run for a long time and has had several people encourage her to make a bid. This is the first time she has sought elected office.

Mustafa moved to southern Minnesota 12 years ago from Philadelphia. She had planned to become a border patrol agent but was diagnosed at age 21 with Stargardt disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration that results in legal blindness. Instead, she taught English abroad in South Korea. She is currently earning a master's degree in clinical mental health counseling from Winona State University.

Three years ago, she founded the nonprofit Community Interfaith Dialogue on Islam. A Muslim, Mustafa hosts the Faith Talk Show at the Rochester Public Library where she interviews non-Muslims about faith issues.

Mustafa serves on several local boards, including the City of Rochester's Ethical Practices Board and Olmsted County's Human Rights Commission. In 2016, she received the Mayor's Medal of Honor in Rochester.

If elected, Mustafa said she would focus on making sure people have access to affordable health care.

She added, "No one should have to make the decision should I pay for my medical bills or should I sell my home?"

She said she would also seek to make sure people have access to mental health care services and advocate for more affordable housing.

Mustafa said she has visited more than 30 different places of worship in and around Rochester in recent years. She said she is someone who would advocate for the needs of everyone in southern Minnesota.


"I don't want to be a candidate just for the Muslim community. My work always has been interfaith," Mustafa said. "And I want my campaign team to also be interfaith because that's always at the heart of everything I do."

Regina Mustafa

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