Politicians take center stage at Duluth's Labor Day picnic

As he worked the crowd at the Duluth Labor Day picnic at Bayfront Festival Park, Duluth City Council candidate Zack Filipovich wasn't aware of this year's local advantage.

Pols sing along
Russ Sackett (from left), Duluth Central Labor Body president Danny O'Neill, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin and his son, Tony Rubin, sing a rousing version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" at the annual Labor Day picnic on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, at Bayfront Festival Park. (Bob King /

As he worked the crowd at the Duluth Labor Day picnic at Bayfront Festival Park, Duluth City Council candidate Zack Filipovich wasn't aware of this year's local advantage.

No big name politicians stealing the limelight.

After all, there's no gubernatorial race, no congressional races, no state representative races that brought out those candidates for speeches, handshaking and general schmoozing.

The bigger the name, the bigger the crowds they tend to draw.

Filopovich was understanding of that allure.


"If those people were here, I'd be gravitating to them and shaking their hands, too," he said, after giving a brief but rousing address to the gathering.

Still energized, before he worked his way through the food tent afterward, he recruited another yard for one of his campaign signs -- from the volunteer who handed him potato chips to go with his hot dog and corn on the cob.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan had planned to attend, but the crisis in Syria kept him in Washington, D.C. That left U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar the lone high level elected official present. But overt campaigning wasn't on her to-do list Monday. She delivered a short labor speech and joined an impromptu singing of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" with St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin and a few others before leaving.

Some picnic-goers enjoyed the reprieve from high-level campaigning at the annual picnic sponsored by the AFL-CIO Duluth Central Labor Body.

"I actually like a break from the big politicians so the local candidates are more spotlighted," said Mitch Levy of Duluth. "Without the big names, that's fine. We get to meet the local candidates like the school board. We get to listen and talk to them more and more one-on-one."

Joel Sipress, a Duluth DFL board member, also saw the upside as the local labor-endorsed city council and school board candidates took turns speaking to the crowd of several hundred people.

"It's a good opportunity for the local candidates," he said. "Our local elections are really, really important. And so it's appropriate the local candidates get the attention this year."

Duluth City Council candidate Barb Russ and her team positioned themselves at the entrances to Bayfront Festival Park to meet people and get the word out about her candidacy. It was her first time at the picnic.


"Local candidates have always found this to be a great place to meet people," she said.

Tami Hendricks of Lakewood Township, a longtime Labor Day picnic-goer, was a bit bored, however. She noted a smaller turnout than last year, when state and federal races brought out a bounty of high profile candidates, like Nolan, and when Sen. Al Franken, who wasn't running for re-election, and former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar delighted the crowd.

"I don't really like it," she said of the picnic's more low-key tone. "I like the speeches. I like the speakers. When I came last year, there was a line to get in."

Either way, it didn't matter to Rod Eck of Duluth, a retired state worker.

"I always come here to see old friends and talk about fishing and hunting," he said.

Related Topics: SCHOOL BOARD
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