Amy Willingham will run against Republican Jon Koznick for Minnesota House seat

Education is Willingham’s top concern

The race is on in Lakeville.

Amy Willingham
Amy Willingham

After months of searching, Democrats have found a candidate to challenge Republican Jon Koznick for the Minnesota House seat in District 58A.

Amy Willingham, a leader in the “Unite for 194” group that worked to successfully pass the first new levy referendum in a decade last fall, said she decided to run for the seat after being “heavily recruited” by party members.

The seat was held for 16 years by Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, who recently announced she would not seek another term and is running for the Dakota County Board of Commissioners.

A self-described “community activist,” Willingham, 42, called education her campaign platform, and said she would advocate to find a more sustainable model of funding education.

A mother of three, Willingham said the levy and extra state funding did not reduce class sizes enough.

“I think we have to get all elementary classrooms below 30 and under 25 for the younger grades, K-2,” she said.

Willingham said she is also concerned about crowded classes at the middle and high school levels in Lakeville, particularly in science labs.

As a biology teacher at St. Paul College, she said college students are lacking some important skills.

“The kids I work with come from all over the world,” she said. “I can personally see some of the gaps in their college readiness.”

Willingham also cited concerns about Lakeville’s traffic jams and transportation issues; she advocated for improved bus lines in the area.

“We have a bus line to Minneapolis and back, but there’s really no way to get to St. Paul outside of driving,” she said.

Willingham said she has lived in Lakeville more than 30 years, and graduated from Kenwood Trail High School, now a middle school.

A former physical therapist, Willingham has taught at St. Paul College for two years, and with her husband, Steve Willingham, a Lake Marion Elementary physical education teacher and Lakeville South High School volleyball coach, runs a community volleyball program in Lakeville.

Willingham said she has never been associated with either party, has voted for Republicans and Democrats, and believes people are tired of party politics.

“I can work through the political gridlock,” she said.

Willingham said she loves Lakeville and the school district and wants to represent the people.

“I’d hope to represent Lakeville as a problem-solver,” Willingham said. “Someone who can work with people from all different political viewpoints. I’m a uniter, I can put teams together.”

Her opponent, Koznick, 41, is a Lakeville businessman and active Republican Party leader who has advocated for reducing government taxes and regulations. He received the Republican endorsement in March.