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'We lost a giant': Minnesota leaders react to the death of state Sen. David Tomassoni

The Iron Range lawmaker's legacy will include a $25 million law that will help fund research of ALS, which he had for the last year of his life.

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Heliene CEO Martin Pochtaruk greets state Sen. David Tomassoni on Sept. 9, 2021, in Mountain Iron after announcing the new manufacturing facility at Heliene will be named after him. Heliene is a manufacturer of solar panels.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Longtime Iron Range legislator Sen. David Tomassoni died after more than a year with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis , or Lou Gerhig's disease. He was 69.

Remembrances rolled in Friday from across Minnesota.

From hospice in Duluth, Range senator vows end to Lou Gehrig’s disease

In a statement, Sen. Tom Bakk, I-Cook, said Tomassoni was "a giant." Bakk's wife, Laura, was also a longtime legislative aid to Tomassoni.

"His selflessness in advocating for ALS research could not save his life but may save the lives of millions who follow in his footsteps," Bakk said. "His kindness to me, my wife Laura, and the good times we shared will live with me for the rest of my life. I send my condolences to his family during this difficult time. We lost a giant.”

Gov. Tim Walz said Tomassoni's legacy would be his contribution to ALS research. Earlier this year, in his final legislative session, Tomassoni championed a $25 million bill to fund ALS research that Walz signed into law.

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“Gwen and I are heartbroken to hear of Sen. David Tomassoni’s death. We are sending love and strength to his family and so many friends at the Capitol and across the state,” said Walz. “David was a champion for his constituents, the Iron Range, and all of Minnesota. I am honored to have known him and to have worked together to pass millions of dollars in funding for ALS research and caregiver support last session. His legacy will continue to help people in Minnesota for generations.”

Added Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan: “Sen. David Tomassoni was a tireless advocate for his constituents and the Iron Range and a friend to so many across the state. When he was diagnosed with ALS, he turned heartbreak into action and became a fierce champion in his final months for people and families like his. I am saddened by his passing, and his family and loved ones will remain in our thoughts and prayers.”

Tomassoni, a longtime DFL lawmaker, announced he became an independent shortly after the 2020 election, often caucusing with Republicans.

The Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus called Tomassoni a "treasured friend and colleague."

“I am deeply saddened by Sen. David Tomassoni’s passing. David was a wonderful colleague, friend, and mentor not only to me, but to so many at the Capitol. It was an honor to work with him on the funding for ALS research this past session," Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said in a statement. "I’m hopeful the funding from this bill will help find a cure for ALS and honor David’s legacy. Janel and I send our condolences to the Tomassoni family during this difficult time.”

U.S Rep. Congressman Pete Stauber, R-Hermantown, said, he and his wife Jodi were "saddened" to hear of Tomassoni's death.

“There was no better champion for Minnesota and the Iron Range than David. I am praying for the entire Tomassoni family at this time. His tireless work and dynamic personality will be greatly missed in the Northland,” Stauber said in a statement.

DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said Tomassoni always did what he believed was right for Minnesotans, even if the two disagreed on some issues.

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“My heart goes out to Sen. David Tomassoni’s friends, family, and loved ones. Sen. Tomassoni was an institution in the Minnesota Senate, a champion for the Iron Range, and a strong advocate for our schools," Martin said in a statement. "While we did not always agree on the issues, I never doubted that Sen. Tomassoni was doing what he thought was best for the people of Minnesota. Sen. Tomassoni’s boundless courage and wisdom will be missed.”

Senate DFL Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen, DFL-Edina, said Tomassoni had a unique ability to befriend and work with lawmakers from every party.

"Sen. Dave Tomassoni was a giant presence at the Minnesota State Capitol for decades and he will be sorely missed by everyone he touched," she said in a statement. "His larger-than-life personality endeared himself to colleagues on every side of the aisle, and it helped him do so much to improve the lives — not only of the people and communities he represented on the Iron Range — but for all Minnesotans. He was successful because he built bridges and worked collaboratively and with dignity, love, and respect, even during the most contentious of debates. He had one goal: serving Minnesota and the people who sent him to St. Paul."

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Tomassoni continued to serve until the end, even participating in a committee hearing earlier this week.

“David Tomassoni will be remembered as a wonderful friend, an incredible Olympian, and a fighter for the Iron Range," Klobuchar said in a statement. "For decades, he worked every day to deliver real results for workers and families — like bringing good-paying jobs to his district, improving schools, and advocating for safe conditions for miners ... Even through the greatest battle of his life, David lived up to his promise to serve. I will miss his good humor and the twinkle in his eye. I will miss his funny texts and phone calls. Like his family, I find solace in knowing he fought the good fight and will now be at peace.”

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
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