Itasca County special election coasts to Dec. 12

PHOTO: Mel Green, Flickr CC

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, voters will finally cast their ballots in the Itasca County District 5 commissioner special election called more than half a year ago.

The seat opened with the resignation of Commissioner Mark Mandich on June 21. County officials scheduled a special election an insane six months later, with a primary in October. Local officials told me that the state required the long run-up to the special election. But it bears mentioning that legislative vacancies are often filled in six weeks or less. So I’m not sure whey the state wouldn’t have allowed this to happen on the first Tuesday in November election day.

But I digress.

In the Oct. 3 primary, Nashwauk Mayor Ben DeNucci advanced with more than 56 percent in a low turnout election. Lawrence Township Supervisor Casey Venema also advanced with 33 percent. Roger Weber of Nashwauk Township finished in third.

I previewed the primary election back in October. Very little has changed. Virtually nothing has been said in the media, aside from a handful of standard-issue letters to the editor. The candidates campaigned some in the towns.

One observation was relayed to me the other day. DeNucci, an active DFLer, seems to have signs in a lot of traditional Democratic sign locations while area Republican yards sport Venema signs. In past, Venema identified as an independent. Even sleepy nonpartisan races seem to separate like oil and water these days.

Amusingly, in this district Nashwauk becomes the dense urban core, led by the suave metropolitan DeNucci. (DeNucci owns a bar and mechanic shop). Venema, who owns a welding shop, becomes the “rural” candidate.” In truth, neither a DeNucci or Venema victory will dramatically alter the orientation of the universe. But it will means something to them.

DeNucci obviously serves as the front-runner after the primary. Though the late election might produce even lower turnout, so the question becomes who shows up?

Itasca District 5 is a fairly large, rural district on the eastern side of the county. It includes the western Mesabi Iron Range cities of Calumet, Nashwauk and Keewatin, Effie and the greater Togo metroplex. It also includes the “North a’ Nashwauk” townships, Pengilly, Swan Lake, and the Balsam Township home of MinnesotaBrown World Headquarters.

Maddeningly, the winner of this long-delayed special election then must stand for the regular election next year.

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