Candidate profile: Cunningham points to expertise in health care, education fieldsWhen Pam Cunningham eyed up the complexion of the Legislature, she didn’t see strong representation from experts in the health care and education fields.
By: Mike Longaecker, Woodbury Bulletin
When Pam Cunningham eyed up the complexion of the Legislature, she didn’t see strong representation from experts in the health care and education fields.
So the longtime nurse and District 622 School Board member decided to throw her hat in the ring.
“If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” she said. “I have a unique skill set to bring to the Legislature.”
Cunningham, a Maplewood Republican, will vie for the new House District 53A seat with Democratic challenger JoAnn Ward. The district, which comprises the northwest portion of Woodbury and parts of Oakdale, Maplewood and Landfall, was formed this year during redistricting.
Cunningham works full-time as a nurse – the same profession she has held for 30 years – at St. Mary’s Health Clinics, which performs charity care for people without health insurance. She is also in her ninth and final year on the District 622 School Board.
She said she ran for the board after becoming “disgruntled” by the direction the district was headed.
“And I decided I was going to be part of the solution and ran for the School Board,” she said.
After a failed first campaign, Cunningham was later elected to the board after running on a slate of Republican Party-endorsed candidates.
She said her years on the board taught her the importance of cooperation and the challenges of education funding.
“How we fund schools needs a re-work,” Cunningham said.
If elected, she said she would work to eliminate the practice of education payments being delayed to districts while those dollars are used to balance the state’s budget.
“I am not and never will be in favor of a shift,” Cunningham said, calling the practice “Minnesota politics at its worst.”
She said she would like to end unfunded mandates and to allow schools to set their own priorities “rather than being told.”
On the health care side, Cunningham said she hopes to work on one component of the Affordable Care Act that – health care exchanges. She said Minnesota doesn’t yet have a system in place to account for the impact the exchanges will have on small businesses.
“It needs to get done right and I think I can offer good, constructive help in that area,” she said.