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Fourth DFL candidate announces for open District 3A House seat

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson, a lifelong International Falls resident, businessman, community activist and volunteer, has filed as a candidate in the special election to fill the House District 3A seat left vacant by the death of Dave Dill.

Johnson, 36, is running as a DFLer this time after running as a Republican for the same seat in 2014.

"I'm not really a party guy. I think this shows I'm really willing to work with any group," Johnson told the News Tribune. "We need a true moderate voice to get done what needs to be done for rural Minnesota and 3A."

The primarily DFL district covers all of Koochiching and Cook counties, northern and eastern St. Louis County and most of Lake County.

Three other DFLers have announced are running for the open seat — Koochiching County Commissioner Rob Ecklund, Ely City Councilor Heidi Omerza and Cook County canoe outfitter Bill Hansen of Sawbill Lake.

Dill, 60, died Aug. 8 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.,after succumbing to cancer. The DFLer had represented District 3A for 12 years, first elected in 2002 and most recently re-elected in 2014.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday set Dec. 8 for the special election. The now four-way DFL primary will be held Sept. 29. Filing for the office closes at 5 p.m. Aug. 31.

So far, no one has announced they are running as a Republican.

"Not only did Northeastern Minnesota. lose a great public servant in Rep. Dill but so did the entire state. Although it will be difficult to find someone capable enough to fill his shoes, District 3A needs a representative that has the same dedication, energy, bipartisanship, and openness to ideas that the late Rep. Dill possessed," Johnson said in a statement announcing his candidacy.

Johnson lost to Dill in the 2014 election for the seat by a 66-34 percent margin.

Johnson said he "brings years of experience to the table owning, operating and growing a successful dental manufacturing business in International Falls ... and also founding and expanding Voyageurs Outfitters Inc., one of the only outfitting businesses catering to the visitors of Voyageurs National Park."

Johnson, who is single, said that in addition to his business acumen, he also has years of experience in community activism and nonprofit work.

"As an avid fisherman, hunter, and outdoorsman I feel a strong connection to the land and our way of life in northern Minnesota," he said. "This is the land that I have and always will call home. It would be a great honor to serve the people of 3A and bring my energy, experience, fortitude and bipartisan attitude to St. Paul and carry on the work of the late Rep. Dill."