6th District race: Circle Pines woman with ‘can-do personality’ steps up

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter

Judy Adams wants to tuck legislation written by the citizenry in her pocket and head to Washington.

Democratic 6th Congressional District candidate Judy Adams, of Circle Pines, hopes to replace Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. (Photo by T.W. Budig)
Democratic 6th Congressional District candidate Judy Adams, of Circle Pines, hopes to replace Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

“There comes a time when you have to step forward. Life is just so long,” Adams, Democratic 6th Congressional District candidate, said.

Environmental activist, natural food restaurateur, personal care attendant and landlord, Adams has worn many hats.

She grew up in a poor family in Minneapolis and remembers government-commodity cheese, rice and powdered milk as family staples. A restaurant owner by age 21 with a penchant for fixing up Victorian homes, Adams, now 56, identifies with people battling the odds.

“To me, when I see a small business fail, that’s a reason to cry,” Adams, of Circle Pines, said.

Running as a Democrat in a Republican stronghold, Adams faces an uphill struggle should 6th District Democrats endorse her for Congress.

While fond of Sartell Mayor Joe Perske, a likely 6th District Democratic candidate, Adams depicted herself as the better candidate.

“Is he a fighter?” Adams, leaning over the table at a coffee shop, asked about Perske . “No. Am I a fighter? Yes.”

Encouragement by a customer at her restaurant sparked Adams to dive into the political battle over the then-proposed Hennepin County incinerator and issues of lead pollution. She was living in a Victorian-style home in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis at the time.

For a number years, efforts by nationally known lead researcher professor Howard W. Mielke had Adams and others writing legislation and advocating at the state Capitol, Adams said. She came away from the experience with the realization that it’s one thing to write bills and another thing to force bureaucrats to follow through with them, Adams explained.

Adams views American politics as a system of denial, dominated by a cover-your-tracks mentality.

“Nobody is fixing anything,” she said.

But problems, too, are complex.

The lack of furniture in low-income homes, resulting in clothing scattered on the floor and becoming susceptible to lead-dust, is an example of the human reality that makes reform hard, Adams, speaking of lead abatement, said.

“You don’t have a lot of wins as an environmentalist,” she said.

No longer a restaurateur, Adams works as a 24-hour personal care attendant and has her hands in other ventures. She does painting, drywall work and lead cleanup, she said. She works with people with disabilities, she said.

Her business dealings have not been without controversy. Adams had owned a manufactured home park in Melrose, in Stearns County, that has had local officials demanding the current owner remove dilapidated homes.

According to a Melrose city official, the city ticketed Adams in December 2006, while park owner, over the lack of a rental license. In an email, Adams said she plead guilty to not having the rental license posted.

Because she could not get time off from work, Adams felt it wasn’t worth fighting the city citation in court, she said.

Adams described herself, in the email, as diligently trying to improve conditions in a park ensnared by legal difficulties.

“I have taken a lot of heat from being the outsider who is fixing what was a slum when I bought it,” Adams said.

Adams talks of restoring “participatory democracy,” of going to Washington with legislation and ideas from the district. She expressed chagrin, for instance, regarding the perceived tendency of nonprofits to dominate the debate about low-income housing at the expense of landlords.

Adams has considered running for Congress before. The decision by Republican 6th District Congresswoman Michele Bachmann not to seek re-election and the quick departure of hotelier and Democrat Jim Graves from the race convinced Adams the time was right.

Why run for Congress?

“That’s the can-do personality,” Adams said.

Adams will abide by the Democratic party endorsement, she said.


Tim Budig can be reached at [email protected].