From Homelessness to the House of Representatives

May 19, 2013

Eleven years ago, Rena Moran moved to Minneapolis with the hope of creating a better life for her family. Single mom to seven youngsters, Rena and her children were homeless for many months while Rena sought out a job and saved up for a place to live. Her first employer – an amusement park at Minnesota’s famed Mall of America – offered her minimum wage. She took it.

Rena eventually found other work, at her local YMCA, and finally in the for-profit sector. She bought a home in Saint Paul, moving in with “nothing but clothing and a mattress”. When the city paved just half of her street – but charged the entire street for that cost – Rena organized her neighbors, knocking on doors and calling for meetings with elected officials.

Rena won this battle – a full street’s worth of pavement, the costs fairly shared among everyone. And an activist was born! Rena left her corporate job to become an organizing fellow with Wellstone Action, graduating from our program in 2008. Says Rena, “Becoming a Wellstone fellow put me on the path to serious civic engagement. The skills and strategies I learned through Wellstone Action gave me the confidence I needed to take that next step, to continue on this path toward public service – and to believe that I could actually win”.

Believing what we teach at Wellstone Action – that “WE are the ones we’ve been waiting for!” – Rena launched her campaign to serve as state representative for district 65A. In a statewide body of 134 house members, none of them were women of color. Rena aimed to change that, with her motto of “inspiration, resiliency, and hard work” and her deeply personal story of triumph over social, economic, and racial injustice.

Rena’s campaign slogan? “Together, we are stronger”. And her victory? A LANDSLIDE, with almost 80% of voters behind her. Says Representative Moran, “I am incredibly proud to serve my community and the State of Minnesota, and I am so very grateful to Wellstone Action for helping me get to where I am today”.

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