This interview with conducted over email.

Southwest Voices: What are your thoughts on Rep. Frank Hornstein not running for office again?

Toya López: To be frank, I have some pretty mixed feelings about Representative Hornstein not running for reelection. On one hand, he has been a pretty progressive legislator, especially on transportation and environmental issues. On the other hand, he has been a representative for 22 years, and as Hornstein mentioned himself, it’s important to pass the torch. We have a lot of new, young energy running for this seat, which I think is invigorating for civil engagement across the district. I thank Representative Hornstein for his contributions and I hope the next chapter of his life is fulfilling and restful.

SWV:  Have you worked with Rep. Hornstein in the past? If so, how? If not, what aspects of his work in the State House of Representatives are you wanting to continue?

TL: I have had the honor to work with Representative Hornstein in the past. Recently, I testified on his bill addressing food waste, HF 4932. I have also worked with him through my past work on climate advocacy, transportation, and coalition building in the progressive space.

SWV: Why are you running for the 61A seat?

TL: I think it comes from a soft place, that so many community members are at the point of complete abandonment of our governing structures, many have been for generations, and I can’t blame them. My disabled neighbors, my immigrant neighbors, my queer neighbors, my BIPOC neighbors, our elders, our youth, so many have been disenfranchised. Anyone who holds a position of power must move very carefully because everything is built on the bones of oppression and extraction. I can recognize this. I’ve been socialized to move in spaces of power and that's a privilege I need to wield to the best of my ability. I believe I can best be an ally by getting as far as I can in our current structures and bring up others with me.

SWV: You are running as a farther-left candidate and are a young person. Can you say more about that and how it impacts your campaign?

TL: I prioritize a systemic approach to problem-solving and, most importantly, politics that “make sense” to the lived experience of people. We hope to build a broad independent progressive coalition around this campaign; this includes seeking the support of the Green Party and DSA, but also from more mainstream organizations like the Working Families Party and Our Revolution. This means prioritizing local business over massive corporations, affordable housing over Wall Street investment firms, locally-generated solar and wind power over imported fossil fuels, patient-centered healthcare over incentive/insurance-centered. We are simply putting people first. If this is considered “far-left,” so be it. Many neighbors have been disenfranchised by the DFL, so a candidate coming in running outside of the DFL will appeal to people searching for someone who will hear their voice.

As for my age, I think my youthful appearance could be a barrier, though I see myself more as battering-ram, allowing for more Millennials and Gen Z to see themselves at the State Capitol. It’s been a few years since I’ve been the youngest voice in the room and I am really proud of all the young people I have worked alongside. I have a Masters and I’ve worked in corporate, non-profit, cooperative, and activist spaces. I’ve dedicated my youth to serving underserved communities, and so far that’s mainly taken the shape of helping my neighbors in building community health, wellness, wealth, and abundance. Despite my younger age, I’ve made an impact in my community, and I hope to do the same at the State Capitol.

SWV: What is something unique you would bring to the table as the House representative for 61A?

TL: Something that I would like to see more in other candidates is a willingness to to engage in creative solutions, trust building, and radical accountability. As a facilitator, I work to help communities imagine their future and make that future imagined by the people become possible. I also use a trauma-informed approach in healing trust and allowing for grace as our allies, neighbors, and communities determine our future together. I want my neighbors to expect radical accountability. That, for those with more power, the reaction to failure isn’t bureaucratic silence, isn’t gaslighting and deflecting, and isn’t giving excuses. Instead I want to set a standard of admitting failure, reducing harm, and transforming the way we operate.

The lens in which I view all policies is through health and wellness. If a solution does not prioritize preventing, mitigating, or building resilience from further harm, that is not a solution worth considering. As a health professional, I’ve learned to be humble and take accountability for historical and current trauma suffered by the community and between professionals. We have a lot of healing to do, and I see my candidacy as a continuation of providing care.