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District 2 race over, but more barbs thrown

Duluth's most contentious district City Council race ended up in the largest margin of victory of any council race, but the war of words didn't stop, as each candidate declared a message had been sent.

Duluth's most contentious district City Council race ended up in the largest margin of victory of any council race, but the war of words didn't stop, as each candidate declared a message had been sent.
Incumbent Greg Gilbert, who won the race going away with more than 55 percent of the vote, had been the target of negative ads run by the Duluth Chamber of Commerce PAC and a campaign by fellow attorney Pat Spott that denounced Gilbert's record on economic development. Gilbert said he didn't feel vindicated but said he was glad to be done with it.
"It's hard to take, to have all these negative attack ads against you," he said after addressing a DFL crowd gathered at the Radisson Hotel.
"I think the Chamber PAC will have learned a lesson from this campaign," he said.
Spott, reached by phone at his campaign headquarters following the race, challenged the characterization that the Chamber PAC ads were attack ads. He said he'd seen two -- one regarding the McQuade safe harbor and another regarding a garbage ordinance -- which he classified as accurate.
He said even Gilbert's camp hadn't argued that.
"No one was ever saying they weren't true, they were just saying they were negative," he said.
As for negative campaigning, Spott said that was his role as a challenger. "It seems to me that for a challenger to run against an incumbent, the challenger has to say what's wrong," he said. "... There's no reason to challenge an incumbent unless something was wrong."
Spott said he felt "fantastic" about his campaign against a well-known incumbent -- he said his support should send a message to councilors who align with Gilbert on the council to start taking "an objective look at economic development projects."
He said one issue that may have hindered his progress was the smoking ordinance referendum. As he listened to business owners, Spott became increasingly opposed to the ordinance despite knowing he was on the unpopular side, he said.
At the DFL gathering, state Legislator Dale Swapinski, DFL-Duluth, continued to denounce the campaign tactics used by the Chamber. Swapinski has resigned his membership in the organization.
"I've never seen anything the likes of it" in Duluth elections, he said. "... As far as I'm concerned, the Chamber of Commerce is persona non grata, as long as I'm in public office. For life."
Gilbert said he didn't expect the vitriole of the election to carry into the council. He said all those who had been elected would make good councilors.
"We do come together on these types of things," he said.
Gilbert had 3,115 votes to Spott's 2,514, while write-ins accounted for 22 votes.

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