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Johnson to seek second term

First District Duluth City Councilor Laurie Johnson made it official Tuesday, declaring she will run for a second term. And Johnson will have some familiar competition in her race: Duluth banker Todd Fedora. Fedora, who challenged Johnson in a ti...

First District Duluth City Councilor Laurie Johnson made it official Tuesday, declaring she will run for a second term.

And Johnson will have some familiar competition in her race: Duluth banker Todd Fedora.

Fedora, who challenged Johnson in a tight race four years ago, said he intends "to be at the city clerk's office at 8:30 a.m. July 3," which is when the official filing period begins.

Fedora, the president of M&I Bank's commercial lending division, said he filed his first campaign finance report with the city on Monday.

Johnson, who is a representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was flanked by labor leaders at her news conference on City Hall's steps Tuesday morning.

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She is also a former supermarket cashier, mother and grandmother who struggled to support her family and often frames her comments in council chambers within that personal context.

Johnson said she would continue to work for good-paying jobs, responsible development, eliminating homelessness and finding affordable housing forfamilies.

"I'm proud today to be able to say that in the past four years, I've had the privilege of making that pledge a reality," Johnson said in prepared remarks.

She also touted labor-friendly votes she's been involved in over the years; some of those votes drew conflict of interest accusations. Johnson also took stands on making Duluth smoke-free, a resolution to bring American troops home and support for the Heritage Sports Center in Lincoln Park/West End.

Fedora, who also has been affiliated with the political action group Connect Duluth, lost to Johnson by 477 votes in 2003.

Johnson and Fedora are considered polar opposites on the political spectrum, but both said that families, finances and the future would be the hallmarks of their campaigns.

"I ran four years ago saying that things needed to change, and Duluth is not getting any better today," Fedora said. "I've gotten a lot of response from people who say we are going in the wrong direction."

Fedora cited the city's continued support for controversial and costly projects, such as the Great Lakes Aquarium and medical district parking ramp.

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"We need to focus on the basics here, not silly stuff," Fedora said, saying the city needs more police.

He said the city's primary responsibility should be keeping its people safe and was disturbed to learn recently that violent crime and robberies are on the rise in Duluth.

Those same Police Department statistics also said that reports of burglaries, thefts and vandalism declined over a two-year period.

No one else has indicated public interest in the 1st District seat yet. Johnson said she was compelled to make her announcement to dispel rumors that she might make a run for mayor.

The political season heated up early this year as the mayor's race became a free-for-all after Mayor Herb Bergson announced that he will not -- as widely suspected -- seek a second term.

So far, the crowded field includes former City Councilor and Human Rights Officer Meg Bye, 2nd District Councilor Greg Gilbert, At Large City Councilor Don Ness and retired businessman and West Duluth activist Charlie Bell.

Johnson supports Gilbert, she said.

CHRIS HAMILTON covers the Duluth community and city government. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 279-5502 or by e-mail at chamilton@duluthnews.com .

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