Ginger Jentzen: The Socialist Alternative

Socialist candidate Ginger Jentzen carries the torch of Bernie Sanders’ political revolution

Photographer: Mariah Crabb

There’s a storm brewing in Ward 3, and it’s giving rent-hiking landlords and deep-pocketed developers a scare—a Red Scare. That storm’s name is Ginger Jentzen, a Socialist Alternative candidate with a populist agenda and a grassroots campaign that just may sweep her into office this November.

Ward 3 encompasses a large share of downtown and northeast Minneapolis, as well as the student burrows of Marcy Holmes and Dinkytown. The ward has seen prolific development over the past few years with new “luxury” apartments carrying luxury price tags that have been driving many renters out of the market.

“These for-profit developers have too much influence over decisions made in city hall,” said Jentzen, rapping the table as she drives her point home. “Ward 3 is at a crossroads.”

Jentzen declared her candidacy in January, but her fight for the working class began long before that. She began her career in public service working with the developmentally disabled, and made regular trips to the capital to lobby a DFL-controlled legislature against cuts to the Minnesota Department of Human Services budget, an experience that Jentzen says disillusioned her to the Democratic Party.

Eventually, Jentzen ended up in Seattle organizing for 15Now, where she saw a $15-per-hour minimum wage instituted and a socialist, Kshama Sawant, elected to city council. Now, Jentzen is trying to make lightning strike twice in Minneapolis. As the executive director for 15Now Minnesota, she fought for three years to secure a $15-per-hour minimum wage in Minneapolis before emerging victorious in July. Now she’s gunning for the council seat that Jacob Frey is leaving vacant.

“It’s not about me individually,” she said. “It’s about winning a seat for working people.”

Jentzen doesn’t talk about herself much. Ask her what she likes and she’ll say rent control and workers’ rights. “It’s not about me individually,” she said. “It’s about winning a seat for working people.”

Jentzen’s supporters love talking about her. They use terms like “inspiring” and “unfaltering” to describe her, and compare her crusade against big developers to David versus Goliath.

Tyler Vasseur, a 21-year-old student at the U, took the semester off to campaign for Jentzen full time. Vasseur, like many of Jentzen’s supporters, is trying to keep Bernie Sanders’ political revolution alive. When he heard Jentzen railing against billionaire influence and wealth inequality, he hopped aboard.

Sanders and Jentzen share more than a college student’s adoration. She made waves in the council race by raising more money than any candidate in Minneapolis history—all $140,000 of which has come from individual donations averaging about $20 each. Jentzen has also forsworn money from developers and business interests.

“You can’t be accountable to two bosses,” she said.