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Candidate's View: Voters can choose longtime voice for mining, education, labor

ABOUT THIS PRIMARY: Minnesota Senate District 7 stretches from north of Virginia, southwest to past Palisade and Tamarack. DFL candidates Ben DeNucci of Nashwauk and Kim (Kotonias) McLaughlin of Hibbing are on the Aug. 9 primary ballot. The winner will face Republican Robert Farnsworth of Hibbing on Election Day on Nov. 8.

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Ben DeNucci
Contributed / Ben DeNucci
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To say I have roots on the Iron Range is an understatement. My family has lived in Nashwauk for more than 115 years. This place and the people who make it so great are what I fight for every day.

Now, I am running to represent state Senate District 7 and continue the fight to protect our community.

I am a small-business operator. When my hometown grocery store was closing, taking 15 union jobs and a community lifeline with it, I could not sit by. I used all the resources at my disposal and assembled a team to buy the store and keep the doors open. When the grocery store in Eveleth was going to close, someone was needed who wasn’t just going to talk about how bad the loss would be. I put together another investment coalition and now operate two union groceries with a third on the way in Aurora. Where I'm from, people know me as someone who not only believes in strong communities but who knows how to get things done to keep them vibrant.

The primary is Aug. 9. Election Day is Nov. 8.

I am a former mayor of Nashwauk and current Itasca County commissioner. As mayor, I collaborated with neighboring Keewatin to secure state bonding funds to successfully build a much-needed joint wastewater treatment plant. As a commissioner, my focus is on the economy. I led an initiative to use county grants that encouraged hundreds of thousands of dollars of new, private-sector investment. I further passed project labor agreements on multiple county-led projects so local workers stayed employed. I am a staunch supporter of organized labor because being pro-union is pro-job.

I am a volunteer firefighter and first responder. It is incredibly rewarding to work with EMTs and law enforcement to support community members in some of their greatest times of need. As a state senator, I will advocate for increased funding for emergency services, particularly rural ambulance providers. I hear over and over how local police chiefs make do, settle for less, and budget based on one-time grants. I will fight for funding so our law-enforcement agencies never have to choose between upgrading equipment or paying fair wages.

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One of my proudest accomplishments is my work on a project team that passed an education referendum to replace the oldest school in the state. I worked with our School Board to organize the community. I worked with the mining companies to acquire a land donation. I worked with my legislators and the IRRRB to line up resources. When the referendum passed overwhelmingly, I knew I had done my job. As your next state senator, I will continue to do that job so we can support teachers, fund education, and invest in new schools.

An Iron Range economy that works must be centered on our natural resources. We’ve been mining responsibly here for 140 years, because we know that everything we have comes from the land. I will fight against the boom-and-bust cycle of idling mines, particularly when the corporations which own them continue making record profits.

I have a vision for 21st-century mining: feeding electric-arc furnaces with a value-added product made right here on the Range. Our partners in the mining industry can make “green steel” with significantly fewer carbon emissions and lower cost using this modern technology. But they can’t do it alone. Paired with support for research and development, we must remove undue permitting burdens and trust the process that has blessed the Range with the cleanest water quality. Any proposal that can pass our proven permitting system, like the PolyMet and Talon Metals Tamarack projects, has my full support.

The Iron Range is too often left behind by politicians who can’t make deals because of partisan squabbling. The Legislature recently adjourned leaving a $9 billion surplus on the table. That’s our money. If elected, I will be the voice for the Iron Range, put money back in residents’ pockets, and deliver what we need to thrive.

It would be an honor to earn your support and vote in the DFL primary. From mining to education to labor and bargaining rights, I am ready to go to work as your next state senator.

Ben DeNucci of Nashwauk is a candidate for the Minnesota Senate. He wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.

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