Politics on the menu at Duluth’s Labor Day picnicThe Labor Day picnic in Duluth had your usual corn on the cob, hot dogs and beer. It had old friends catching up and co-workers greeting each other.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
The Labor Day picnic in Duluth had your usual corn on the cob, hot dogs and beer. It had old friends catching up and co-workers greeting each other.
And it had what has become a staple of the annual picnic sponsored by the AFL/CIO Duluth Central Labor Body — plenty of candidates for office.
Those candidates defied the hot sun — shaking hands, greeting cohorts and listening to voters.
“There always are politicians,” said Janet Basil of Lakewood Township as she looked on from a shady spot. “That’s part of what it’s for. It’s a good way to get next to the people you will serve. Get their opinion. Lots of people don’t write to their congressman. This way they can get to know them."
DFL-endorsed Rick Nolan, running for the 8th District congressional seat held by Republican Chip Cravaack, at first stood at the entrance to Bayfront Festival Park, chatting with people as they arrived.
“Today people are saying you got my vote, thanks for running, how can I help?” Nolan said. “So it’s very comforting and encouraging to get that kind of support. It energizes me.”
Soon he had moved to the heart of the crowd, with a supporter holding a sign with an arrow, announcing his presence.
Erik Simonson, who is running as a write-in candidate for state Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s District 7B seat from Duluth, stayed close to his campaign booth, handing out “Write-in Erik Simonson” T-shirts and chatting with those who stopped by.
An assistant Duluth fire chief, he’s been president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 101 for 10 years.
“Being involved in labor my entire career, it drives home what labor means to me — good-paying jobs with benefits is what people want,” he said.
Because his is a write-in candidacy, Simonson said he was also there to educate voters about how write-in voting is done.
“Most people here are voters,” he said, gazing at the crowd. “We want to make sure we educate voters on how to do it as well as talking about the issues.”
The issues brought Leta Pulling of Duluth to the picnic.
“I came because I want to hear their views,” the retired St. Louis County worker said. “I listen to what they have to say. It (helps me decide) who I vote for.”
Politics is part and parcel of the annual picnic, said Boyd Tuve, a retired state highway worker.
“It’s just their base, their solid base,” he said of the Democratic, labor-minded candidates who turned out.
Not all were running for office or re-election.
“It’s a great way to talk to people,” said Duluth City Councilor Dan Hartman, who isn’t facing re-election this year. “It grounds you in the issues and what people are thinking about. And what I hear is they want good quality jobs.”
The picnic culminated with a string of speakers that included Nolan, former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, Jim Klobuchar — on behalf of daughter U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is running for re-election — and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who is not.
“This is a great tradition,” Franken said later. “Anytime I can get up here to talk to a lot of good people, I do, because we have an election coming up, and they need to be engaged.”