Election Day in the hot, hot North

Henry made a snowman last week and we had some fun enfranchising it.

After the most bruising, scorched-earth campaign season in the modern history of northern Minnesota, it brings me great pleasure to report the following: Today is election day. One side may win. One side may lose. An ambiguous mixture of results is more likely. But, most importantly, it ends today, or more accurately tonight and maybe tomorrow morning after results are reported. If you say “recount” I will fight you with a tree bough.

Soon we’ll know the true nature of Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District, where more money was spent than almost any other district in the nation — and probably more than was spent in the previous six or seven elections here combined.

In SD5, three incumbents will be laid off while three others will face a daunting challenge ahead as the effects of redistricting take place. Elsewhere, Tom Rukavina’s replacement will be named and control of the legislature will be determined.

Vote! Find your polling place here.

Many of you know that I manage the campaign of my close friend and fellow Balsam Township resident Rep. Tom Anzelc in the new District 5B. Tom is in a tight race with another incumbent, Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick, after the two were paired in this year’s redistricting. No pressure, but this is one of a handful of races that will determine who controls the state House in this year’s important budget session.

The campaign saw a lot of outside spending that neither Tom nor Carolyn controlled. I’ve run all of Tom’s campaigns and have been involved with several others before that, but all were Iron Range races in heavily DFL districts. This was my first experience with a swing district race that both parties have a reasonable belief they can win, depending on the mood of voters. It has been both exhilarating and debilitating. 

I am deeply proud of my friend Tom for running an issues-oriented campaign. Carolyn, too, has my respect for running a strong race. Nearly all of the ugliness in this campaign, and there has been a lot of it, has come from outside the district.

Commercial radio became unlistenable. (Well, more so than usual). I, along with most others here, received negative mail pieces almost every day for more than a month. Will these tactics work? It’s hard to say, and it’ll be hard to determine their impact afterward. I only know that I don’t like it and I don’t know anyone else who does. Perhaps we could do better?

Of course, I am biased. I hope Tom wins. He is one of the most effective, on-the-ground legislators I’ve ever worked with. He put roofs on community centers, drained the Canisteo Pit and reformed laws, both small and large, to make government function better. He worked well in the majority. He worked well in the minority. I know he’d represent this new district effectively, regardless of the outcome of other state and national races.

Sometimes two people in the same house can see the world in very different ways, as evidenced by Doug and George’s recent library selections.

But I am at peace with the will of the voters in this new district, which blends the populist traditions of the Iron Range with the more conservative ideology of the woods and waters region. One can only pray that people make an earnest decision based on our hopes for the future. And that the legislator who wins leads with conviction and compassion. Victory is a free people, unafraid, working toward greater good.

Tom and I have discussed this already, but I am now telling you that this will be the last campaign I run until my children are older. I’ll always participate in local politics, especially on important issues, and this blog will continue like gangbusters. But it’s time to focus on my young family, spend more time on my profession and my free time on my writing, my radio show and efforts to improve our Iron Range community. This decision only serves to improve other parts of my life and the written product you enjoy here at MinnesotaBrown. I feel the calling. It is real.

And so we vote, and so it will be.


  1. Politics is important but believe me you’ll never regret putting your own children first. The mailings are very negative by and large, I don’t think they got quite as ridiculous as in 2010, at least in District 10.

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