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Our View / Endorsement: Re-elect Olson, her relationship-building

In her first term in St. Paul, Rep. Liz Olson kept hurrying back home to Duluth to meet with constituents and to host town hall-style listening sessions, she sought out bills to work on that had bipartisan support so she could build relationships with colleagues and others on both sides of the aisle, she joined a bipartisan civility caucus, and she supported legislation to cut the chaos and the partisan clashes marring the ends of sessions in recent years.

All things constituents can want their elected representative to be doing.

And all reasons for voters in Minnesota House District 7B, in central and western Duluth, to reelect Olson on Nov. 6.

"I did concrete things and will try to go back and keep doing those," Olson said this month during a News Tribune-sponsored candidate forum. "When I ran for office two years ago, I said I would build relationships to make myself an effective legislator with folks in my district, to engage new people in the process, and to really bring people to the table to talk about legislation and things that impact their lives. (And I worked) to build relationships within the Capitol to understand how to be an effective legislator."

And she was effective. Despite being a freshman. And despite being a member of the minority DFL Party while the Republicans held control. She helped secure bonding and other funding for the Duluth Steam Plant conversion project, for a new science building at the University of Minnesota Duluth, for St. Louis River clean-up, for reconstruction at Lake Superior Zoo following the 2012 flood, for rehabilitation work at Glensheen, and more. She authored a bill to address the alarming number of elder-abuse cases in Minnesota care facilities. And she pushed for "penny-a-pill" legislation to hold pharmaceutical companies financially accountable for the state's opioid crisis.

Opioids and the elder-abuse issue are among her well-placed priorities this coming session, as she indicated at the forum. Other priorities include legislative approval for a voter-endorsed half-percent sales tax in Duluth to pay to fix our streets and an adjustment to per-pupil funding so education spending can come closer to keeping up with inflation.

"The work is really unfinished," she said.

Olson's Republican challenger is first-time candidate Caroline Burley. With a degree in business administration and experience in insurance and information technology, she supports smaller government and lower taxes.

"I support the Republican Party platform," she said at the forum. "People are very concerned about immigration. We do need to have secure borders. My biggest concern is the curriculum that is currently being taught in our schools. I think it needs to be replaced."

Some voters in Duluth's District 7B may have been disappointed at Olson's participation this week in a press conference to support a woman accusing our Republican president's Supreme Court nominee of wrongdoing while not addressing, or supporting, a woman similarly accusing one of her fellow DFLers.

But those same voters can appreciate even more that Olson's party loyalty is balanced by her focus on issues important to Duluth and our region. And they can endorse with their votes her admirable efforts to build relationships , no matter anyone's political bent.

"A lot of what we do is not about winning or losing. It's actually about figuring out how we disagree," said Olson. "How can we have enough of a relationship so that we can disagree and still work together?"

Constituents certainly want their elected representatives working together.

This News Tribune endorsement editorial was determined entirely by the newspaper's editorial Board. The board's members are Publisher Neal Ronquist, Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick, employee representative Kris Vereecken, citizen representative Julene Boe and citizen representative Denise Wise.