The underdog Republican Dale Brodin steps back into the campaign ring with state Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, for the third election in a row.
The prize is state House seat 6B and representation in St. Paul of the district's residents in Hermantown, Proctor, surrounding townships and four Duluth precincts.
Murphy brings to her corner almost 30 years of representing her district in St. Paul. She was first elected to the House in 1976 and is serving her 15th term.
Brodin, in his corner, said he brings a new face and attitude to the seat. "It's an uphill battle in this area," Brodin said of the race. "It's a difficult challenge."
Both candidates agree on many of the issues and both are pro-life and support the Second Amendment.
Brodin's main focus in the campaign and for the next term is attracting businesses to the region. Most of the new jobs coming to the area are low-paying positions in the tourism industry, Brodin said.
To attract higher paying jobs, Brodin said he'd like to get the message out that Northland workers are not hostile to businesses.
There's a misperception that because the Northland has a union presence, businesses would have a hard time working with employees in the area, he said.
"I've talked to people out of the area. ... Businesses think it's a risky place to invest," he said. "We've got to get the word out that, yes, this is a strong union area, but it doesn't mean that if you start a business here that the unions will automatically try to break you."
Brodin's message will be underscored by the fact that he is a Northland business owner with union employees, he said.
Brodin is part owner of General Heating and Mechanical.
While Brodin said he agrees with Murphy on many issues, he doesn't feel that she is doing enough to attract businesses.
"I'm not sure she's trying to get that message across. She's doing the same things she's been doing for the past 25 years," he said. "I love Mary; I think she'd make a great neighbor. I just feel she's become more and more ineffectual."
Murphy sees jobs as one issue among several basics on which she focuses.
Education, health care, jobs, the environment, property taxes and transportation are the most important issues because they are the principle obligations of the state, Murphy said.
Murphy has supported the Natural Resources Research Institute, which has brought research jobs to the area, she said.
But the way she's focused on the jobs issue is through supporting education, she said. "I think anything we can do to improve our education system ... is a good investment and will help future generations and will help (with) getting jobs and keeping jobs in northern Minnesota."
When Murphy started in the state House, Fond du Lac Community College and Lake Superior College didn't exist, and the University of Minnesota Duluth was much smaller than it is now.
As a former social studies teacher at Central High School, Murphy has always been interested in education.
While campaigning, she said, she's always stuck to the basic issues. This year isn't any different.
Brodin said he thinks local representatives have become out of touch with the rest of the state because times are changing and they've been serving in the house for a number of years.
Murphy and Mike Jaros, who serves District 7B on the west half of Duluth, are tied for third place as the longest serving representatives in the state house.
Murphy said that longevity has placed her and Jaros in a place of leadership in the House. If the DFL regains majority control, they will chair committees. Their experience counts. "That means more is expected. That means we answer more questions. That means ... more legislators ask for our advice," she said.
Brodin isn't intimidated in facing Murphy for a third time after losing to her in 2002 and 2004. "It's a battle that needs to be fought, and even though she's beaten me in the past, that doesn't mean I should just give up and give her a pass on it," he said. "I feel that somebody needs to run, and I was willing to do it."
Murphy appreciates the competition.
"I think it's better to have an opponent," she said. "It makes a person go out and meet with people, ... and it gives people a choice."
Murphy and Brodin's match will come to a head on Election Day Nov. 7.