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Our View: Single-party rule rejected on Range, embraced statewide

From the editorial: "Single-party control is far from ideal — in St. Paul or in any capital. It negates the checks and balances built into our governance, which helps to ensure effective and fair rule. And it makes it easier for extremist views to run roughshod over the people and dictate policy."

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There was a time not many elections ago when a Republican candidate on the Iron Range had about as much chance of prevailing as November has of avoiding freezing temperatures.

But the surprisingly red Minnesota map that followed the 2020 election for president carried into Tuesday’s 2022 vote in Northeastern Minnesota, where three Iron Range Republicans were elected to the Legislature, two other Republicans came close, and our Republican congressman held onto his seat after facing his toughest-ever Democratic challenge.

Late Sen. David Tomassoni was as DFL as they come on the Range — before his party included a mining moratorium as part of its platform; abandoned, Tomassoni went independent. On Tuesday, he was replaced by a Republican schoolteacher and real estate agent making his fourth run at office. Robert Farnsworth of Hibbing defeated Ben DeNucci, even though DeNucci’s impressive resume included businessman, former mayor of Nashwauk, and current Itasca County Board member. The vote in Minnesota Senate District 7 was 53.07% to 48.05%.

In redrawn Minnesota House District 7A, another Republican, Spencer Igo of north of Grand Rapids, knocked off DFLer Julie Sandstede of Hibbing, 53.74% to 46.19%. In a quirk of redistricting, both were incumbents with experience and records of success that made clear they were in touch with their communities and constituents' needs. The Republican Igo’s victory was an apparent reflection of shifting political winds.

Perhaps most stunning of all — and barring a recount of the thin, 37-vote margin of victory — Republican challenger Roger Skraba, the mayor of Ely, knocked off four-term DFL incumbent Rep. Rob Ecklund of International Falls in Minnesota House District 3A.

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In other districts covering the Iron Range and north of Duluth, DFLer Grant Hauschild of Hermantown only narrowly defeated Republican Andrea Zupancich of Babbitt in the race to replace the resigning Sen. Tom Bakk. The margin in Minnesota Senate District 3 was 50.82% to 49.08%. And in Minnesota House 7B, three-term incumbent DFL Rep. David Lislegard retained his seat, but also far from resoundingly, with 51.17% of the vote to Republican challenger and first-time candidate Matt Norri’s 48.67%.

Republicans also did well west, south, and just outside of Duluth, including Jeff Dotseth of Kettle River (51.16%) over DFLer Pete Radosevich of Cloquet (48.71%) in House District 11A, Natalie Zeleznikar of Duluth (50.01%) over 23-term DFL Rep. Mary Murphy of Hermantown (49.85%) in House District 3B, and incumbent District 11 Sen. Jason Rarick of Brook Park (60.89%) over DFL challenger Michelle Boyechko of Tamarack (38.97%).

The story was different in Duluth, which remained a DFL stronghold Tuesday with three convincing victories for DFL Sen. Jen McEwen in District 8 (71.53% to Republican Alex Moe’s 28.27%), DFL Rep. Liz Olson in western Duluth’s District 8A (70.48% to Republican Art Johnston’s 29.38%), and DFLer Alicia Kozlowski in eastern Duluth’s House District 8B (70.95% to Republican Becky Hall’s 28.83%).

The story was different for the DFL statewide, too, where DFL incumbents Gov. Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Auditor Julie Blaha, and Secretary of State Steve Simon all won reelection. And the DFL on Tuesday was able to maintain control of the House in St. Paul while also reclaiming a majority in the state Senate for the first time in six years.

Single-party control is far from ideal — in St. Paul or in any capital. It negates the checks and balances built into our governance, which helps to ensure effective and fair rule. And it makes it easier for extremist views to run roughshod over the people and dictate policy.

Look no further than the Iron Range for a place in Minnesota where single-party rule is being rejected, even if it did take a dramatic political shift from even not so long ago.

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Like all communities, ours regularly faces critical moments and important decisions. Helping to lead robust, healthy, and civil conversations about important issues — everything from mining to land use, preservation to economic development, and schools to tourism — is an important role the Editorial Board and the Opinion page play in our community.
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