Transgender candidate announces U.S. Senate campaign in Minn., seeking Green Party endorsement

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EAGAN, Minn.—In her bids for the U.S. House, Eagan resident Paula Overby sought to offer an option to voters who connected with neither Republican nor Democratic candidates.

Frustrated by the largely two-party political system, Overby again ran for the seat in 2016 as an Independent candidate.

She gained 8 percent of the vote against Democrat Angie Craig and Jason Lewis, the Republican victor in that election, a feat she said was "huge" for a third-party candidate.

Overby hopes to continue her momentum to tackle issues including military spending and health care, this time through a bid for the 2018 U.S. Senate race.

She will officially announce her Green Party campaign Nov. 15.

She will contend with incumbent Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, and state Rep. Jim Newberger, a Becker Republican who announced his candidacy in August.

Despite running against opponents already well-established in the political sphere, Overby said interest in alternate political parties grew after the last presidential election.

She said focus on U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump signals a burgeoning interest in leaders from "outside the traditional political establishment."

In past elections, Overby said her personal and professional background, including work in mental health and data analysis, offers a unique perspective that connects with a wide spectrum of experiences.

She is also the first openly transgender Minnesotan to run for Congress.

But, she said, barriers still exist for independent candidates.

"It's very difficult to modify old habits," she said. "It takes people who are just committed to that goal. It's always been a primary focus of our campaign: reforming political process."

Health care dominates the issues Overby said she hopes to address in the Senate.

She said she would advocate for more local control in health care, a goal that echoes her platform from her previous congressional bids.

Overby criticized the Affordable Care Act as "zero-sense" policy that offered few solutions to Americans struggling with struggling to gain access to health care.

Instead, Overby said she'd support single-payer plans such as the Minnesota Health Plan, a state-funded option available to all residents for a monthly premium.

She also said she hopes to tackle health-care cost and price transparency.

Some of the simplest solutions, she said, would be allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Others include encouraging sale and distribution of generics and allowing patients to purchase medication from cheaper sources including Canada.

Also among Overby's priorities is rerouting military spending to "social investments."

"I think there's globally two types of power: military power and economic power," she said. "I think we need to transition our approach to a more diplomatic global position."

But Overby said the current U.S. politics could prevent progress on these issues.

To solve health care access, foreign relations and more, Overby said the U.S. must first fix what she sees as a broken system.

Rather than working together for solutions, Overby said Republicans and Democrats pour their effort into competing goals.

"Even in campaigns, they tend to be marketing efforts," she said. "The two parties choose two opposing narratives, sometimes false narratives. There isn't any dialogue or discussion, there's just negative attack ads."

Overby's campaign will kick off at a 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, at Winona State University, Purple Rooms in Kryzsko Commons.