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Our view/endorsement: Stauber shines in candidate forum

Patrick Boyle is an excellent candidate to represent eastern Duluth's 2nd District on the St. Louis County Board. A nurse practitioner, he's well-versed in one of the county's largest roles, that of delivering in an effective and efficient way so...

Jim Stauber
Jim Stauber

Patrick Boyle is an excellent candidate to represent eastern Duluth's 2nd District on the St. Louis County Board. A nurse practitioner, he's well-versed in one of the county's largest roles, that of delivering in an effective and efficient way social services to people most in need. A Duluth city councilor, he's fiscally experienced and politically savvy and effective. And an all-around sincere good guy, he has forged strong working relationships with officials, bureaucrats and others from Duluth City Hall to the state capitol in St. Paul, bonds that certainly would be of benefit to the county.

It was no wonder the News Tribune endorsed Boyle to advance from the Nov. 5 primary, which he did.

But a candidate forum yesterday morning made clear voters have an even better option when they head to their polling places on Tuesday to pick a replacement for Commissioner Steve O'Neil, who died this summer. Boyle's opponent, former Duluth City Councilor Jim Stauber, emerged with stronger stands and a clearer understanding of issues. Throughout the forum, his was an experienced voice of reason, responsibility and accountability on everything from welfare to taxation to mining.

Plus, Stauber's resume is at least as impressive to voters. A public servant, he recently wrapped up 12 years on the Duluth City Council, where he earned a reputation as a watchdog for taxpayers and a bulldog for economic development. A military man, he retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Air National Guard. And a businessman, he's also retired from a top management position with Gold Cross Ambulance.

"I look forward to the opportunity to continue my service, to use my experience (and) my background knowledge of this district," Stauber said. "Routinely I do not support tax increases. I do not support additional bonding and burdening our children with our debt, especially when our debt goes to operating government. ... And I don't approve typically of new and crazy ideas for fees or fee increases."

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Agree with him or don't, but Stauber took unquestioned stances Tuesday at the forum at Valentini's restaurant on London Road.

One example was on the issue of drug-testing welfare recipients. The county in 2013 started enforcing a drug-testing program for recipients of public assistance who've been convicted of a felony drug crime. "If the government is paying you, you need to be tested clean for drugs," Stauber said. "(Drug use) isn't what we want to pay for with your welfare checks. We want to make sure you're clean. So absolutely, I think it's a great idea." Said Boyle, "That's something I would love to get a little more deep on and give some more thought on. ... That is a huge issue with getting people out of poverty. I think we've got to take a deep look at what we're doing."

Another example was on the issue of annexation. Stauber clearly was opposed, including to a recent proposal from Duluth to annex a portion of Rice Lake Township, a move he called "hostile." "Annexation is a tough thing to even consider," Stauber said. Boyle's response, meanwhile, was noncommittal. "We have to be open and look at all the different actions that can happen," he said.

While a clear choice emerged at yesterday's forum, the result of Tuesday's special election promises to be tight. Both candidates are well-liked and well-known. And with a light voter turnout expected, anything can happen.

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