Early election results Tuesday showed Keith Musolf seemingly punching above his weight — and it never stopped.
The rookie politician was elected to the St. Louis County Board on Tuesday in a midsummer special election to replace Congressman Pete Stauber. Lethargic at times, the election ended with a finish worthy of "Rocky."
“You know, I treated it like an underdog since the day I jumped into the race,” Musolf said from his victory party at Beacon Sports Bar and Inn in Hermantown. “Overcoming the name recognition of the mayor from the largest town in the district, to me it was just working hard and having good people around you.”
With all 12 precincts reporting, Musolf defeated Hermantown Mayor Wayne Boucher, 52 percent to 47 (994 votes to 905).
In doing so, Musolf toppled an opponent in Boucher who carried a career of dignified service included retiring from the Hermantown Police Department and spending every year since 2000 in city office. Boucher conceded from his election night watch party in Hermantown, at the Skyline Lounge.
"I'm a little unnerved, a little disappointed," Boucher said. "That’s a lot of hard work."
The underdog, Musolf was surrounded by friends and family Tuesday night celebrating.
“I’m excited — astonished and excited,” Musolf said. “Everybody has been great — nothing but great people from the beginning.”
As a new county commissioner, Musolf finds himself at the nexus of multiple worlds — industry and county oversight. Musolf, a union organizer with Iron Workers Local 512 in Hermantown, is a political newcomer. He campaigned hard in the space between his day job. A News Tribune phone call earlier this month found Musolf talking to more than 60 candidates for 30 apprenticeships with the Iron Workers. There’s a growing need for construction and trade workers and Musolf was happy to provide opportunities.
Musolf found resonance in his campaign by giving voice to working families — talking about creating child care options and helping to get people with addictions back on their feet.
"It's was all about people from the beginning," Musolf said. "I want to lace up my boots and go to work for folks in the 5th District."
Voters in Hermantown, Proctor, the city of Rice Lake and Brevator, Canosia, Duluth, Gnesen, Lakewood, Midway and Solway townships are represented in the 5th District.
Boucher will carry on as Hermantown mayor.
"I'll keep working for my community," he said. "There is a lot going on in Hermantown that needs attention."
Turnout-wise, the election reached a still swooning 10 percent, up from the May primary's low of 6 percent from among 19,265 registered voters in the district. This time, 1,905 voters went to the polls.
Close to half of Boucher's vote total, 43 percent (386 votes), came from Hermantown precincts. Musolf dominated the precincts he won, places such as Rice Lake and Midway, Lakewood, Solway and Duluth townships.
Musolf will fill out the remainder of Stauber’s term through Jan. 4, 2021. The 5th District seat will be up for election again in November 2020. Annual salary for a St. Louis County commissioner is $63,648.70.
The new commissioner will be sworn in soon at a date and location of his choosing. He can choose a judge or county elected official to administer the oath. In the past, some have had a judge administer the oath prior to their first board meeting. Others have been sworn in, in front of family, friends or even civics classes, said county spokeswoman Dana Kazel.
Assuming no challenges to the election results, a canvassing board will meet Friday to certify results.