No, we're not electing a president this year. Or a governor. And no, there's no showdown on Duluth's ballots today for the always hotly contested 8th Congressional District.
In many ways, though, today's election is actually bigger than any of that — and far more critical.
Eligible voters in Duluth today will be choosing School Board members and city councilors, those local representatives who play perhaps the biggest roles in our everyday lives. They’re the ones who dictate our city's and even our region's direction and future. Today’s winners will impact where we live, work, and play for years, perhaps even the next decade or more.
Without supposedly higher-profile races on the ballot, voter turnout far too often is down in local municipal elections like today's. But that ought not be the case. All of us who are eligible are responsible to participate. We have an obligation. None of us should leave it to our neighbors to choose these important elected officials.
In Duluth today, three contested School Board seats will be decided, and there are four City Council races. Nearly half the council could turn over. We could be in for big change. Will voters today opt for seismic shift or endorse our city's direction?
Vying for two open At Large seats on the City Council are incumbent Terese Tomanek, a chaplain who ran a chiropractic clinic for 15 years, and challengers Azrin Awal, who’s studying public health at the University of Minnesota Duluth and working as a youth advocate, and Joe Macor, who with his wife operates a foster care facility for adults with developmental disabilities. Architect Tim Meyer’s name is also on the ballot, but he withdrew from the race shortly after the primary.
In City Council District 2, which includes parts of eastern and northern Duluth, Mike Mayou and Dave Zbaracki are vying to replace Councilor Joel Sipress, who chose not to seek re-election. Mayou does admissions marketing at UMD and works in the technology department for the Duluth public schools, and Zbaracki is a stay-at-home dad and part-time ski instructor and bicycle salesman.
And in City Council District 4 — in Duluth Heights, Piedmont Heights, Lincoln Park, and parts of West Duluth — Councilor Renee Van Nett is being challenged by former Councilor Howie Hanson, an online publisher.
In the School Board races, At Large incumbent Kelly Durick Eder, an assistant professor of biology at the College of St. Scholastica, is being challenged by longtime district critic Loren Martell and Amber Sadowski, a community development director at Life House. In District 1, community activist and incumbent Rosie Loeffler-Kemp is being challenged by conservative research scientist Dana Krivogorsky. And in District 4, Board Chair Jill Lofald, a retired teacher, is running unopposed.
Voting is our duty and responsibility as citizens and as members of our community. We all live here. All of us who are eligible to vote have a voice about who our leaders are and the kind of place in which we want to live. No one should let their voice go silent on Election Day.
Voting is a precious privilege. In the early days of our nation, most states allowed only wealthy white men to vote. Over decades, many courageous individuals, most notably women and African-Americans, fought hard for and even died to win the right to vote for all of us. Going to the polls is not something to be taken for granted. It's an opportunity, one denied to citizens in far too many other nations.
So go. Vote. Now. Today. Every election is important. Local elections are especially critical and impactful.
No high-profile races? Please.