Nobody saw District 51A candidate Milton Walden coming. Not even Milton Walden.
A property inspector and former small business owner, Walden has never run for office. Nor has he actively participated in local politics. Nor did he attend .
Which is why his surprise entry as a Democratic challenger to DFL-endorsed candidate Sandy Masin in House District 51A caught nearly everyone off-guard—including his opponent.
"He had never made overtures about running, or told anybody that I knew about it," said Masin. “There was no previous information coming out about his interest in doing this."
Walden's entry into the 51A race is itself an accident. Earlier this summer, Walden's brother-in-law Samuel Beard, who is running for office in another house district, encouraged him to file as a Democrat for the 51A House seat, which is currently held by Republican incumbent Diane Anderson.
Emboldened by the fact that no one had yet filed for the seat, Walden paid the $100 fee and registered as a candidate—the same day that Masin and Anderson also filed.
After learning that Masin, a former state representative with two decades of political experience, had also filed, Walden decided to withdraw from the race. But he accidentally missed the June 7 deadline to withdraw, which means that he and Masin will square off in a primary on Aug. 14.
Two weeks ago, Walden was not planning on openly campaigning for the seat. But on Tuesday, the candidate said he was reconsidering and may launch an active challenge to Masin.
Even if Walden decides not to campaign, Walden's out-of-the-woodwork appearance still complicates the 51A race, Masin said.
"Our strategy isn’t going to change a whole lot, because I’m still focusing on the issues and why I’m running, but what it does mean is that we have to add a portion of the campaign where we place emphasis on getting people out to the primaries," Masin said.
Walden, who described himself as a "god-fearing" Christian concerned with the state of the economy, is aware that he faces an uphill battle if he decides to campaign. Masin's political credentials and resources are "intimidating," Walden said.
“I’ve never run for political office at all, that's what scared me the most," Walden said. "This is not high school student council, you have people’s lives at stake here, and have some major decisions to make."
Still, Walden said, he wants to do what he can to address local foreclosure rates and the state of the economy.
"Everyday I come in contact with good people who just fall on hard times, whether it’s losing a job or medical issues," Walden said. "To hear their stories, and there’s nothing I can do about it, it’s frustrating, I would like to have a voice."