New GOP chair is from Iron Range

It bears mentioning that Tony Sutton, the new Minnesota Republican Party chair, is originally from Hibbing, right in the heart of the Iron Range DFL bastion. The Hibbing Daily Tribune reminded me of this today. I’m embarrassed I didn’t recall that detail on my own.

Though the Iron Range reliably produces 2-1 DFL majorities, it’s not the uniformly DFL area that frustrated Republicans like to complain about. There are active Republican party units and a community of conservatives that have endured minority status for several generations. I think the real reason the Iron Range frustrates Republicans so much is that, demographically, it resembles what would otherwise be a swing district. Poor white males and older retirees represent huge constituencies and, in other parts of the state, they vote GOP much more often.

From the start of the “modern” Range in the 1890s until the 1930s the Iron Range was a Republican stronghold, heavily dominated by the mine bosses and businesspeople. Newspaper stories through the 1900s, ’10s and ’20s read like chamber of commerce talking points. When federal laws and increasing union strength started preventing “monitored” polling places at worksites the area began flipping over to the Farmer-Laborites and eventually the DFL. Since the end of “nonpartisan” legislature in the 1970s the core portions of the Iron Range have not elected a Republican lawmaker.

A while back I wrote a post about Iron Range politics that I later cleaned up and put in my book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.” Meantime, congratulations to former Ranger Tony Sutton on his election to the chair of the opposition. He might be subject to rebuke here in the future, but not today. Or at least not before noon.


  1. Anonymous says

    “He might be subject to rebuke here in the future, but not today. Or at least not before noon.”

    90 minutes of amnesty… that’s awesome!

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