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DFL voters pick candidates for two open seats in Northland

Julie Sandstede (left) and Liz Olson

Voters in House District 6A on Tuesday chose Hibbing resident Julie Sandstede to advance to the November general election for the seat being vacated by Rep. Carly Melin.

With all precincts reporting, Sandstede was the top DFL vote-getter in the primary, with Ben DeNucci, Mike Thompson and Thomas Whiteside trailing in the race to run as the DFL candidate in District 6A, which includes Hibbing, Chisholm, Nashwauk, Floodwood, Bigfork and surrounding areas of western St. Louis and eastern and northern Itasca counties.

Sandstede had 1,676 votes to 1,457 for Whiteside, 1,302 for DeNucci and 259 for Thompson.

Sandstede will now face Republican candidate Rob Farnsworth of Hibbing in the general election in District 6A, Steven Hakly of Iron is running for the seat as a write-in candidate on the November ballot, and has been endorsed by the Independence Party of Minnesota.

Melin, DFL-Hibbing, announced in January that she would not seek re-election to the seat.

Meanwhile, voters in western Duluth on Tuesday chose Liz Olson as the DFL candidate in House District 7B.

With all precincts reporting, Olson had received 1,596 votes and will face Republican candidate Cody Barringer in the general election. DFL candidate Bryan Jensen was eliminated in Tuesday's election after receiving 197 votes. District 7B incumbent Rep. Erik Simonson is vacating his seat to run for state Senate.

"I believe in a Minnesota that promises all of us a chance to live with dignity — a Minnesota that offers access to living-wage jobs with good benefits, strong public schools and expanded access to our democracy," Olson said when she announced her candidacy earlier this year.

District 6A

Sandstede, 46, an elementary music specialist for Virginia Public Schools, said prior to the primary that she'll bring to the District 6A seat her experience working with a diverse group of people and families, as well as negotiating skills, as an educator who has served as co-president of the Virginia Education Association teachers' union.

"This race is about this district's hardworking families. Our displaced workers, small-business owners, schools and communities alike have all been affected by the downturn in mining. It's crucial that we have someone who understands these issues fighting in St. Paul for them and I feel like my experience will help me hit the ground running," she said when she announced her candidacy.

Whiteside, 29, of Hibbing, is a former aide for U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and now works for his family's company, Whiteside Equipment. He said, if elected, he would focus on the area's most important issues: the economy, transportation and infrastructure.

DeNucci, 40, went into the primary election touting his experience as both a mayor of Nashwauk and small-business owner. His focus would be on the Iron Range's economy and wants to push for more investment in local infrastructure and broadband in rural Minnesota.

Thompson, 27, of Cherry, said frustration with "hyper-partisan politics" drew him to the District 6A race. Thompson, who works in sales at Hibbing Chrysler Center, said before the primary that his priorities would include the economy and drug addition in the region.