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Our View: For the Minnesota House: Huntley, Jaros, Swapinski and Murphy

In the history of the United States and Minnesota these are relatively good times. The economy is humming along, just about anybody who wants to work is doing so, the crime rate is going down. While some have been left behind and many challenges ...

In the history of the United States and Minnesota these are relatively good times. The economy is humming along, just about anybody who wants to work is doing so, the crime rate is going down. While some have been left behind and many challenges remain, in the long view of history, the times overall are good.
Now comes the 2000 election. Our view is that, given such times, the burden is on the challengers, not the incumbents, to give voters a compelling reason to change. It is a daunting challenge.
Every two years, Minnesotans elect a new House of Representatives. In the four House districts that represent Duluth, Hermantown and Proctor, all four incumbents are seeking re-election. We believe all four deserve re-election. Here's why:
District 6B
(District 6B includes the eastern edge of Duluth with a boundary that zigzags from 12th Avenue East up the hillside to Wallace Avenue to Woodland Avenue to Calvary Avenue to Arnold Road. Also included are eight townships.)
Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, is seeking a fifth term representing Duluth's east side. An associate professor of biochemistry at UMD, he is the lead DFLer on the Health and Human Services Committee.
Huntley is being opposed by Bernie Pistner, a Lakewood Township supervisor for the past 19 years who has been active in the state township association.
Huntley has been a strong advocate for the university. He is also one of the leading forces attempting to get rid of the health-care provider tax, sometimes known as "the tax on the sick and injured," that is used to fund MinnesotaCare. Pistner is opposed to its repeal.
Pistner would put more restrictions on welfare, get tough on crime and promote economic development in this area beyond tourism.
While Pistner strikes us as earnest and sincere and would work hard at the job, we think Huntley has more depth, helped by his experience as the incumbent. He believes, for example, that the only solution to escalating health care costs is rationing -- assuming that we want research and technological advances to continue. For those and several other reasons, we support Huntley for re-election.
District 7A
(District 7A includes the western edge of Duluth with a boundary that includes everything north and west of a line from the waterfront up 22nd Avenue West, winding around to the Piedmont Avenue intersection at Trinity Road, excludes Enger Park but winds over to Mesaba at Lake Avenue, and then follows Rice Lake road to the northeast boundary of the city.
This contest is a rematch of the special election that occurred a year ago to replace longtime Rep. Willard Munger, who died. Incumbent Dale Swapinski won a hard-fought DFL primary over Will Munger Jr., and then coasted to a relatively easy victory over Republican Allan Kehr.
Kehr, a civil engineer, comes from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. He seems to be primarily interested in economic development, which he would jump start by lowering all taxes.
Swapinski said he will not be a "blind advocate" for Duluth projects, but it seems to us that it is up to the local government to make those decisions. Once requests for funds reach the state level, Duluth's legislative delegation needs to be united or the funds will go to other areas of the state.
We think that the jury is still out on Swapinski, but that after only one year in office -- and a year when the primary legislative task was bonding for capital improvements, not approving the biennial budget -- that he has not yet been given a chance to show what he can do for his district, Duluth or the state.
District 7B
(District 7B includes that portion of Duluth between Districts 6B and 7A.)
Mike Jaros, DFL-Duluth, is seeking a 13th term in the House. The dean of Duluth's House delegation, Jaros is the ranking minority member on the Jobs and Economic Development Policy Committee.
In spite of his seniority, Jaroshas not chosen to be a leader of the DFL caucus.
However, his opponent Larry Lownie, chairman of the UMD College Republicans, seems most interested in issues at UMD that affect students. He needs more life experiences such as graduating and getting a job in his chosen field of electrical engineering, before he is ready to represent Duluth in St. Paul.
Jaros is the easy choice in this election.
District 8A
(District 8A includes all of Hermantown, Proctor, Cloquet, Carlton, Scanlon and Thomson plus six townships.)
Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, is seeking her 13th term representing the southwestern suburbs of Duluth. She is being challenged for the third time by Esko electrician Ray Wheeler.
Wheeler is a self-termed "Christian conservative" who supports economic development, a unicameral legislature and a part-time citizen Legislature. He is running again, he said, primarily because "Mary Murphy has been in office too long."
That is not the kind of "compelling reason" that we were looking for above. Murphy has been a hard-working legislator, is accessible to her constituents and is the lead DFLer on the Judiciary Finance Committee. A retired teacher, she has co-authored legislation for a number of programs designed to help children. Over the years she has received many honors.
She has been a legislator for a long time, but not too long for us. She deserves re-election.

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