News Tribune Editorial Board
He worked nearly 30 years for the paper mill in his hometown International Falls. His wife is a schoolteacher. But Rep. Rob Ecklund's top priority when he returns to St. Paul isn't more education funding or incentives to attract new industries, as important as those goals are to him, too.
Skeeter Tomczak's service in the U.S. Army and Minnesota National Guard spanned 16 years and left him decorated with two Purple Hearts. His combat unit was the last out of Iraq. A previous tour of duty was the Army's longest overseas, at 22 months, since World War II.
A schoolteacher for 25 years, DFL Rep. Julie Sandstede wasted little time in listing adequate education funding among her priorities as a state lawmaker. "This is an investment that we cannot shortchange. It is the future of our students. It is the future of our state. The needs are significant," Sandstede said at a News Tribune-sponsored candidate forum Oct. 1 in Virginia. "We need to fully invest."
As much a rarity as a Republican elected leader is in Northeastern Minnesota, Rep. Sandy Layman's case only grew stronger during her first term in the Minnesota House. She represents District 5B, which covers Cass County and a large portion of Itasca County, including Grand Rapids. Voters can support Layman and her successes and effectiveness on Election Day, Nov. 6.
There's no denying Pete Stauber's impressive lifetime of public service or his unwavering devotion and commitment to us in Northeastern Minnesota and in the 8th Congressional District. Stauber was a Duluth police officer for 23 years and a Hermantown city councilor for eight years. He's serving his second term as an elected member of the St. Louis County Board. He was a union organizer and union president. And he's a business owner; he and his brothers started the Duluth Hockey Company nearly three decades ago.
Minnesota long had a reputation — and the No. 1 ranking to back it up — for political engagement and voter turnout. In 2014, however, we slipped. Our attendance at the polls on Election Day that year tumbled, leaving the state ranked No. 6 in the nation. So, a year later, when he was elected secretary of state, Steve Simon made it a goal to get Minnesota back to the top. "I wanted us to do better," Simon said. And we did. In the 2016 presidential election, Minnesota ranked first once again in voter turnout.
With a cloud of concern and controversy still lingering over his opponent, Doug Wardlow, although lesser known, is an impressively qualified candidate for state attorney general and one Minnesotans can support with confidence on Election Day on Nov. 6.
Julie Blaha, the DFL candidate for Minnesota state auditor, can get a little geeked out over data. She can get a bit jazzed up about numbers. And for the greatest reason. "If you can just have that one true thing to start with, you can get through any really thorny problem," Blaha said in an interview this fall with the News Tribune Editorial Board. "Once you have the numbers, you can start talking ideas, ... to peel away the politics, to peel away the divisiveness. ... We actually can come together."
If there's an unhealthy and unproductive rift between Duluth and the Iron Range — and there seems to be based on the comments of some elected St. Louis County Board members over the years and even some board candidates this fall — then the election on Nov. 6 of Brandon Larson as county auditor can be part of a healing. Larson lives on the Iron Range in Mountain Iron and commutes daily to Duluth where he manages the tax division in the county auditor's office. He literally and daily bridges any north-south county chasm.
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.