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DFL candidates gather at Enger Park

The threat of rain didn't dampen a DFL evening that brought out party workers and candidates for state Senate District 7. Except for the wooden Paul Wellstone pins and an occasional campaign button, the gathering looked like any other social even...

The threat of rain didn't dampen a DFL evening that brought out party workers and candidates for state Senate District 7.

Except for the wooden Paul Wellstone pins and an occasional campaign button, the gathering looked like any other social event at Duluth's Enger Park.

Thursday was a meet-and-greet-the-candidates night that provided an early season fix of campaign camaraderie for the politically inclined. It was a chance for constituents to meet multiple candidates without staying for speeches.

And there was no sense of urgency to take on any issues, since none of the district's DFL legislative candidates are facing primary elections. In fact, some party workers seem to cast a longing eye at neighboring District 6, with its highly charged Sept. 10 primary.

That sprawling district runs from the Canadian border to the tip of Duluth, including both the North Shore and part of the Iron Range. Party endorsed state Senate candidate Bruce Lotti is facing Rep, Tom Bakk and endorsed House candidate Bill Hansen faces several primary challengers.

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The District 7 candidates, all current office holders, are state Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, Rep. Thomas Huntley and Rep. Mike Jaros.

In the general election, Prettner Solon faces Republican Justin Krych, while Huntley will face the winner of the primary race between Republicans Harry Welty and Alan Johnson.

Jaros will face Rep. Dale Swapinski and Republican Marcia Hales. With redistricting, the city lost a seat, leaving Swapinski and Jaros with the same geography for the upcoming election. Swapinski had been elected as a Democrat. However, Jaros got the DFL party endorsement, and Swapinski is running on the Independence ticket.

"This is an informal setting, a chance for people to talk with candidates with no speeches," district chair Wayne Pulford said. "In the campaign, they will be talking to a lot of groups on various issues."

He said this was the first of several campaign events that may include a weekly gathering at a coffee shop.

"If you want things to go forward, you have to get involved," said Renette Grace, who became a precinct chair and state delegate. She works with the Million Mom March and thinks political involvement is important to their message of what they call sensible gun laws.

Environmental issues were on Will Munger Jr.'s mind. He wants to see the party keep those issues out front and is involved with an upcoming appearance by gubernatorial candidate Roger Moe.

On Thursday the campaign will take focus as all local legislative candidates have been invited to a forum sponsored by Healthy Kids Minnesota. It will be held at 7 p.m. at the downtown YWCA. A town meeting will be at 6:30 p.m.

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