First in a long time: Iron Range seat falls to GOP

Longtime State Rep. and former Bovey mayor Loren Solberg (DFL-Grand Rapids) has narrowly lost his District 3B race to Carolyn McElfatrick, a Cohasset nurse and GOPer. For the first time in a generation an Iron Range legislative seat will be held by a Republican. Granted, the debate over whether Grand Rapids is part of the Iron Range rages on, but the town is ensconced within the Taconite Tax Relief Area and is part of the Mesabi iron formation, so we’re counting it. This seat was briefly held by Republican Bob Lemen about 30 years ago.

Most knew this race would be tight, but I’d count this a surprise and a demonstration that the Aitkin County portion of this district has become a GOP stronghold. Further, Itasca County is trending red, not blue. Retirees on lakes and socially conservative young people will continue to lead this trend until DFLers post good ideas that attract residents and inspire current ones. As a matter of disclosure, I am a member of the Itasca DFL Board of Directors and expect to have some conversations about this.

Meantime watch District 3B in the drama over 2012 redistricting as the new GOP legislature will move to protect this western Mesabi front. The storied “Range line” between Coleraine and Grand Rapids isn’t imaginary anymore.


  1. Perhaps Solberg’s loss has something to do with his promotion of Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project and putting Micheletti’s interests above his constituents’ interests on that boondoggle? That kind of thing couldn’t help but come home to roost some day.

  2. That’s an area where Loren and I have had disagreement, but I don’t know if it was item #1 on the minds of people in the voting booths. I do believe that the EE MP is the kind of project that will do long range damage to Iron Range credibility, and unless we clean up our practices people will start losing more seats over time.

  3. I think Solberg had a history of kind of ignoring his job duties. I recall him being the only local representative who would make a publicity appointment (for a local job program) with me…and who would just not show up! Yes, I am serious. He did it TWICE.

    It wasnt like I invited him to a BBQ in my backyard. I made a formal invite for a regional program involving hundreds of people.

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