Big names circling Duluth mayor’s race

Though it’s been slow in starting as Don Ness wraps up his final term, Duluth’s 2015 mayoral race is showing signs of intrigue.

So far, only one candidate has announced a campaign for mayor: City Councilor Emily Larson. And while Larson is a strong contender, she’ll likely face challenges for the important DFL endorsement in this liberal northern city, and in the primary.

One of the biggest names waiting in the wings is former DFL Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, who still hasn’t announced her decision about running for her “dream job” as mayor of her hometown.


St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg

On the Republican side, St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg is considering a run as well. Dahlberg ran a surprisingly strong dark horse bid for the GOP endorsement for U.S. Senate last spring, narrowly losing out to investment banker Mike McFadden, the party’s eventual nominee who lost to Sen. Al Franken last fall. While Duluth is a DFL city, Dahlberg has enjoyed broad support as a county commissioner and attorney. He’d have a strong chance of surviving a primary.

State Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth)

State Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth)

But the next big name out there is one I didn’t expect. State Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth) told media outlets last week he was strongly considering entering the race. He said his decision likely hinges on whether Prettner-Solon runs, but a sitting state rep with fire fighter union ties would certainly shake up the race.

Simonson and Dahlberg both enjoy the luxury of keeping their current elected office to take a crack at the odd-year city election.

Still more candidates may emerge, but any combination of Larson, Dahlberg, and either Simonson or Prettner-Solon would make an interesting primary. Any other names out there?


  1. I am pretty sure that Dahlberg has already announced he will not seek another term on the county board, clearing the way for him to run for mayor without distraction.

    There will be considerable activity in Duluth City Council races as well. Incumbents Sharla Gardner and Jennifer Julsrud have announced they will not run again. Larson cannot run for her at-large seat, and the general opinion is that Linda Krug will not run as well. That makes four vacant seats in the nine member council. Incumbents Fosle and the recently appointed Joel Sipress have not announced their intentions yet, but are expected to run for re-election, and will be favorites to retain their seats.

    So whoever ends up the new mayor will have a council with four brand new members and a likely fifth member who has been seated for only one year.

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