Four years ago when she first ran for the Minnesota Legislature, Rep. Julie Sandstede, a schoolteacher for 25 years, said her focus was, unsurprisingly, on education funding. Now seeking re-election for a second time, Sandstede has grown into a strong and dependable voice for Iron Range interests in St. Paul; remains an unwavering supporter of mining, including copper-nickel mining; and her priorities have expanded with her experience and knowledge to also include broader broadband, jobs, and economic development for the Range.

Eligible voters in Minnesota House District 6A — from Bigfork in its northwest to Floodwood in its southeast, including the cities of Nashwauk, Chisholm, and Buhl — can keep Sandstede working effectively for them by supporting her again in the Nov. 3 election.

“I feel like I’m starting to get my head kind of wrapped around things. (Being a lawmaker) is kind of like going to college and majoring in everything all at the same time. More than ever we need somebody who’s going to be a strong advocate for the region,” Sandstede said in a recent interview conducted virtually with the News Tribune Editorial Board. “It’s so important now to have somebody who has some experience, and I definitely have that experience, and I’ve also built great relationships on both sides of the aisle.”

Sandstede’s experience can serve the Range well with statewide battles only growing more intense over copper-nickel mining and even taconite mining, with the state facing a $2.5 billion-plus budget hole as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with a chasm only growing wider between DFLers and Republicans and between Twin Cities’ lawmakers and the interests of the rest of the state.

Sandstede’s hard-won influence can be especially beneficial to Iron Rangers on the House Education Finance Committee, where she serves as vice chair.

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Examples of Sandstede’s bipartisan effectiveness have included winning unemployment benefits for laid-off Rangers, bonding bill funds for her district, and her fight to keep open the correctional facility in Togo that is being closed to cut the state’s corrections costs.

To encourage economic development and broadband infrastructure in her district, Sandstede sponsored the Telecommuter Forward bill to allow communities to designate themselves “telecommuter-friendly,” which opens the doors to partnerships with internet-access companies.

To save lives, Sandstede — a volunteer firefighter and former first responder — introduced a measure to train dispatchers to offer emergency instruction until paramedics and others can arrive.

“We’re an environment-rich, resources-based economy. I think we have to continue to do everything in our ability to develop those resources. Those are the gifts we have been blessed with up here,” Sandstede said. “Yes, I’m a supporter of copper-nickel mining. With that being said, I think that we really do need to be careful and follow the science. PolyMet has gone through a 20-plus-year cycle of review, and I am feeling very comfortable with that. Other companies, I want to give them the same opportunity to explore and to have the science behind them.”

Sandstede’s opponent for a third-straight election is Robert Farnsworth, a pro-union, pro-labor Republican who has worked as a teacher for almost 20 years and is also a licensed real estate agent.

“I think it used to be that the DFL up here on the Range really tried to represent people, and it’s possible that some of those folks still do. But the DFL has been taken over by the metro DFL, and they are very clearly anti-mining, anti-Line 3, … (and) anti-Second Amendment,” Farnsworth said in a separate interview with the Editorial Board. “It’s time we have a strong candidate that’s a Republican who can say, ‘Hey, I’m a pro-union Republican, which proves that I’m able to work across the aisle, and I’m going to fight for the things Iron Rangers really need.”

Holding similar positions as her opponent, Sandstede’s experience and the influence and relationships she has forged in two legislative terms set her apart. That’s in addition to her deep and rich community ties: She teaches music, is an activist in her teachers union and a long-time supporter of labor, directs her church choir and the Hibbing city band, and teaches Sunday school.

“I still consider myself a moderate,” she said. “That’s where the majority of the population lives. We don't live on one extreme or the other. We live in the middle, and that’s the group that I tend to resonate with and that I understand. … I don’t want to be part of more divisiveness.”

Whether or not the political climate is changing on the Iron Range, as some sense, Sandstede is the right pick this election for Minnesota House District 6A.

ABOUT THIS ENDORSEMENT: This endorsement editorial was determined solely by and written by the News Tribune Editorial Board.