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Duluth narrows City Council field in primary

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Top row: Zach Filipovich, Barb Russ, Janet Kennedy, Rich Updegrove Bottom row: Renee Van Nett, Howie Hanson2 / 2

All three incumbents up for re-election in the Duluth City Council primary Tuesday night will advance to the general election in November.

There, At Large Councilors Zack Filipovich and Barb Russ, with 3,859 and 2,797 votes respectively, will be joined by challengers Janet Kennedy (2,462 votes) and Rich Updegrove (2,456 votes).

In the 4th District, Renee Van Nett came out on top with nearly 45 percent of the primary votes cast, but incumbent Howie Hanson will proceed to the general election with nearly 34 percent of the district votes, enough for a second-place finish. Meanwhile, Tom Furman was knocked out of the 4th District council race after receiving just over 21 percent of the vote.

At Large city council candidates who did not advance in Tuesday’s primary, included Jan Swanson with 1,222 votes, Brandon Sorvik with 684 votes and Rich Williams with 396 votes.

Filipovich, a 26-year-old Central Hillside resident and accountant, was the top vote-getter Tuesday night, capturing nearly 28 percent of votes cast.

Voters in the At Large race could vote for up to two candidates.

“I think a lot of it is just a result of talking with people out on the doorsteps and because of my experience on the council, making level-headed decisions for the citizens of Duluth,” he said.

Despite his young age, Filipovich was thrust into a leadership role last year, serving as council president.

“That was a very good experience for me, and I valued it a lot,” he said. “We had some tough meetings during that year, and I think we were able to handle that with some grace.”

Filipovich considers it telling that all council incumbents had solid showings in the primary.

“I think people like the direction that the city is going. We have good civil discussions on the council. Being cordial is so important, and I think Barb and I have been able to demonstrate that,” he said.

Van Nett, a 47-year-old Duluth Heights resident employed as a navigator for Community Action Duluth, said an unsuccessful run for an At Large school board seat a couple years ago helped prepare her for the council campaign and introduced her to the community.

“I felt like I worked really hard and really busted my tail,” she said. “But it does not make me think that I have any time to rest. None.”

While Van Nett takes heart from voters’ support Tuesday, she said: “I’m honored, but I’m not letting up.”