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After tie, coin toss will settle race for Cook County Board seat

Voters in eastern Cook County, the very tip of Minnesota’s Arrowhead, deadlocked Tuesday on who should be their next county commissioner.

Frank Moe, a dog musher, former state lawmaker and environmental activist, received 246 votes — exactly the same as Kristin DeArruda Wharton for the 1st District commissioner seat that includes Grand Portage, Hovland and Colvill.

Braidy Powers, Cook County Auditor/Treasurer (who won re-election unopposed), said state statute calls for the tie to be determined by “lot,” such as the flip of a coin or drawing straws. It wasn’t quite as clear whether the auditor or canvassing board should flip the coin. Either way, the flip will happen Monday morning.

The loser then has the right to ask for a free recount of the original tally and, if requested, Powers said, “that will happen immediately. My staff will be ready to start counting.” Powers noted that a winner will be named one way or the other on Monday.

The two were the top vote-getters among six candidates in the August primary. The seat was open because incumbent Jan Hall opted not to seek re-election.

Moe said the two candidates had “nuanced differences” and that there was no single issue that separated them.

Moe has been among the more active North Shore residents against proposed copper mining projects, including a high-profile dogsledding trip from Cook County to St. Paul to deliver petitions against copper mining.

“There was some outside effort to use my opposition to sulfide mining against me,” Moe said. “There was some quiet, door-to-door effort to remind people I was opposed to sulfide mining. But she never raised it that I know.”

  DeArruda Wharton, who describes herself as a "community leader, nurse, mom and farmer," agreed the mining issue had some impact on the race, although she hasn't taken a public stand onthe issue.

   “I am a 4th generation North Shore family and have lived here for 12 years. I've been very involved with city, county, reservation and township boards, and many community efforts. Including as a community leader on our recent septic ordinance revision process…,’’ she said. “Mining has been an issue quietly in this election. Although it is not an issue that I have brought forward, I have heard from many people within our county who have expressed concern about remaining on good terms with the IRRRB and the iron range delegation, as well as any potential impacts of mining in our watershed and to Lake Superior.”

 Western county race saw five-vote margin

Western Cook County also saw a close race, for the 5th District county commissioner spot, with incumbent Bruce Martinson losing to challenger Ginny Storlie by a five-vote margin, 303 to 298.

Despite the close margin, however, the race doesn’t qualify for a publicly funded recount — the margin would have had to be only three votes, Powers said. If Martinson wants to pay for the county auditor to recount, Powers said his office will oblige.

Martinson has until Nov. 14 to decide whether he wants to pay for a recount.