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Our View / Endorsement: Write-in needed for County Board

The race for St. Louis County Board in District 6 this fall has an eerily familiar, deeply disappointing feel to it. Like the 2016 presidential election, the names on the ballot on Election Day on Nov. 6 will be tough to support.

There's Matt Matasich of Virginia, who runs for something pretty much every election without ever being taken very seriously and almost always without being elected. There's no denying his smarts; he was educated at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Or his passion, which he delivers, almost always, with thunderous declarative pronouncements. Or even his friendliness. The "Nort'side Republican," as he calls himself, is decidedly likable.

This election, Matasich is pushing to split St. Louis County in half to create a Mesaba County in the north and a Duluth County in the south. The never-really-taken-seriously, rejected-long-ago idea is as unlikely to happen as it is lacking in any real evidence of being a good idea. Or even an idea worthy of consideration.

Nonetheless, "I will fight like hell so the people of the Iron Range have the right to vote to separate themselves from the people of Duluth County," Matasich announced, pounding the table in front of him for emphasis, at a News Tribune-sponsored candidate forum a week ago in Virginia. "I see the northern half of St. Louis County paying for the bureaucracy out of Duluth. ... It's time for us to separate ourselves from them, and we will do a better job and have a better quality of services for us on the Iron Range."

And there's the incumbent commissioner, Keith Nelson, in office for more than 15 years. His focus this election is — well, voters can't be sure. Nelson doesn't appear to be campaigning or giving constituents much of a chance to consider his record, plans, or priorities.

He was invited to participate in the candidate forum Oct. 1 in the Northland Building in downtown Virginia.

"I am sure that I will have any number of issues to address that day," he wrote in declining the invitation from the News Tribune.

He was invited to write a "Candidate's View" column for publication in the newspaper, the same opportunity extended to other candidates in Northeastern Minnesota again this fall.

"I am not interested in any opportunities in the DNT," he wrote back. At least he responded.

But voters across District 6 — from Fredenberg and Grand Lake townships in its southeast, not far from Duluth, to Mountain Iron in its northwest — can be wary of an elected representative who consistently declines to be publicly queried or held accountable.

And where does that leave those voters? They need a write-in. Someone from Eveleth, maybe, or Cotton. Someone willing to serve them, on their behalf, with a firm grasp of the issues that are truly meaningful and with a willingness to be the leader they need.

It's an extraordinary plea, but surely there's someone out there qualified and willing to give back — someone whose name can be written in on the Nov. 6 ballot in St. Louis County District 6.

About this endorsement

This News Tribune endorsement editorial was determined entirely by the newspaper's Editorial Board. The board's members are Publisher Neal Ronquist, Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick, employee representative Kris Vereecken, citizen representative Julene Boe and citizen representative Denise Wise.

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