House 3A special election will be Dec. 8

Split Rock Lighthouse from 1905, Lake Superior, Minnesota

Minnesota House District 3A is composed of Koochiching County, parts of northern and eastern St. Louis County, along with Lake and Cook counties. It includes an active logging and paper making economy, tourism, lakes, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and is home to a controversial new proposed mine near Ely.

To update my earlier report, the House 3A Special Election to fill the seat vacated by the untimely death of State Rep. David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake) will now be held Dec. 8, with a primary on Sept. 22 29, according to sources familiar with the situation. The Governor will likely issue his call for the special election this week. It was previously believed that the election would be held in concordance with another special election down in Golden Valley on Nov. 3, but it was deemed that more time was needed.

The primary election will be as consequential as the general, since the first three candidates to announce are all members of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor party.

Though I had reported on these three candidates last week, all three have now sent out official announcements. To learn more about the House 3A candidates, keep reading:

Rob Ecklund

Rob Ecklund

Rob Ecklund

The first to announce was Koochiching County Commissioner Rob Ecklund, a paper worker and former Steelworkers union local president from International Falls.

“We are all saddened by the recent passing of our friend, David Dill. David was a passionate advocate for our Northern Minnesota issues and I enjoyed working with him on many of these, including expanding airport services to investing in our roads, bridges, and water treatment facilities. He will be greatly missed and I’m humbled and honored to announce my candidacy for the position he served so well.

As a United States Marine Corps veteran, Rob knows the value of voting and participating in our great democracy. “Many men and women have served our country so we can have the best government possible. I encourage everyone to vote in this special election, which will be held in the fall.”

Ecklund added, “My goal, if elected, will be to protect our jobs, values, and the outdoor opportunities we cherish from the shores of Lake Superior to the Rainy River. My life experiences of being a veteran, husband, father, county commissioner, mill worker and an avid hunter and fisherman have shaped who I am as a public servant. I have spent considerable time at the state capital and in Washington, DC over the past several years testifying and promoting legislation that protects and enhances our Northern Minnesota quality of life. This is a big and diverse district, and I think I have the passion, energy, and openness to serve the people responsibly and effectively.”

Ecklund is married to wife Joan. They have three sons Nick, Jared and Cory.

Heidi Omerza

Heidi Omerza

Ely City Councilor Heidi Omerza was next to announce. She’s a director on the League of Minnesota Cities board, past president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and head of Ely’s Economic Development Authority.

“Eight years ago I decided to run for the Ely City Council to ensure that our area remains viable not only for our children, but for our children’s children. The same goal and vision drives this campaign for House 3A.” Omerza said. “Northern Minnesota deserves a candidate focused on making our future bright and I am dedicated to that purpose. We lost a great public servant in Representative David Dill. I am saddened by the loss and hope to continue to represent our area with his class and passion.” …

“Economic development and jobs are a priority, business growth, technology and retention are key. I believe our area has the tools and resources to thrive.” Omerza said

Omerza currently lives in Ely with her husband, Tom Omerza, and four children Elliot, Evan, Eric, and Elizabeth. She earned a B.A. in Education at Hamline University.

Bill Hansen

Bill Hansen

Last night, Tofte businessman Bill Hansen made it official by announcing a run for this office. Hansen and his wife Cindy have run the Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, founded by his parents in 1958, for many years. Now his daughter and son-in-law are moving home to run the business, leaving time for Hansen to dedicate time exclusively to public service.

I’m inspired by the success of progressive political leaders like Governor Mark Dayton and Duluth Mayor Don Ness. I’d strive to bring that style of leadership to the people of District 3A.

I am a lifelong business owner and DFL activist. My civic work over the last 25 years has allowed me to be involved in economic and community development across northern Minnesota. My constituents will be the people of District 3A, not billionaires and multinational corporations.

Hansen has been twice endorsed by the DFL for this seat, but lost to Dill twice in primary elections. He is the only candidate so far who has publicly stated that he’ll abide by the DFL endorsement process. He offered this platform in his announcement:

These are the values I believe are shared by the voters of District 3A:

  • A strong and diverse economy through education excellence, community development, appropriate technology and a culture of entrepreneurship – leveling the playing field to reverse growing income inequality.

Progressive and fair taxation, with no unfunded mandates that raise your property taxes.
  • High quality, affordable health care for all. Our elders must have access to the care and dignity that they deserve.
  • Enforcement and protection of Minnesota’s existing environmental laws.

As a piece of commentary I’d suggest that this is a very strong DFL field already. Each of the candidates is credible, with build-in constituencies and relevant experience.

Other candidates will probably run, too. The most notable rumored candidate I’ve heard about is International Falls Mayor Bob Anderson, a conservative DFLer who last ran in the primary against Rep. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township) in 2006. (DISCLOSURE: I was Anzelc’s campaign manager in that election).

Anderson, a retired Boise executive who endorsed George W. Bush in 2004, appeals to a conservative wing of the DFL that has gradually shifted away from the party, but would certainly complicate matters in Koochaching County where Ecklund would hope to run up votes. Then again, Anderson hasn’t announced yet, nor do I really know which party banner he plans to carry if he does.

On that front, I haven’t heard about a Republican candidate yet. Eric Johnson was the Republican who ran against Dill in 2014. He lost by more than 30 percentage points.

I wrote some added analysis in this earlier post about the Minnesota House 3A special election. In short, this is a fairly strong DFL district, but one which features a pronounced division between moderate and liberal Democrats.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.