Larson wins majority, Horton advances in Duluth mayor primary

Emily Larson

Emily Larson

Duluth city councilor Emily Larson won a large majority in Tuesday’s primary election. She and conservative boxing promoter Chuck Horton will advance to the Nov. 3 general election to replace popular outgoing Mayor Don Ness, who opted not to seek re-election.

The Duluth News Tribune and WDIO teamed up to report election results and, near as I could tell, they were first to call the race.

Chuck Horton

Chuck Horton

Larson earned 5,233 votes to Horton’s 1,486. The next highest vote-getter was Duluth City Councilor and blogger Howie Hanson at 677. Turnout was somewhere around 10 percent.

Larson, who carried the DFL endorsement, was already the favorite in this contest, but the primary showed that her political strength was real. Meantime, Horton is a political newcomer prone to controversial statements, a conservative in a generally very liberal city. There could be a lot of sparks in this election, but it will be hard for Horton to actually start a fire.

Then again, nothing is in the books until voters speak in the Nov. 3 general election.

Incumbent 5th District city councilor Jay Fosle also won more than 50 percent in his race, and will face 2nd-place Janet Kennedy in the general. Two other candidates earned fewer than 40 votes apiece. Fosle is one of the more conservative voices on the Duluth City Council and has won two elections in his working class west Duluth district.

The DNT and WDIO also reported results in two Duluth school board races. Several other council races will be on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.


  1. Michael Latsch says

    Does anyone know WDIO/DNT’s method for reporting results in advance of unofficial City Clerk releases? The DNT sources an “unofficial tally”; but what source are they tallying from?

    • Historically, some Twin Ports media will use poll watchers to get early returns. I was involved in those kinds of operations in college. Election ’99 comes to mind. I’m not sure where DNT/WDIO got their numbers, but I’m guessing either poll watchers or someone stashed next to the place where numbers come into city hall. All unofficial, of course, but in a case where there is nothing close it’s a pretty clear picture of the result.

      • Michael Latsch says

        Thanks, the DNT responded to comment of mine on their FB post of their story: “We sent people to every precinct tonight to collect results.”

        To be honest, I’m surprised that individual precinct administrators are empowered to release tallies. In my (uninformed) mental image, i assumed all the tallying happened at the City level.

        • The voting machines spit out a tape at the end of the night and that is public information. It’s unofficial, and doesn’t include absentee ballots in some cases, but it is the same number they send to city hall. If you can raise up enough people you can know election results within half an hour of polls closing. Obviously not possible in bigger races.

          • I was working in one of the precincts during the general election in 2014, reporting results back to one of the campaigns. When I came to the precinct at the end of the day, just before closing, there was a reporter from WDIO waiting there with me.

            The head election judge gave both of us the specific numerical results as soon as they were tabulated — as Aaron says, the information is public information and anyone is entitled to it. Both of us called the results in. A short time later, the DNT and another TV station called the election judge on her phone, and she gave them the results — again, public knowledge.

            The tabulations downtown at the clerk’s office are actually available to the clerk’s staff before the results given to us, but are not generally released until after tabulation is complete. The Secretary of State often has results on his web site before the official results are released because they are sent to his office by internet connection and posted soon after they arrive.

            The official results by the clerk’s office are later because they do an elaborate check and recheck process to make sure they do not release errors in the official report.

            Therefore some news media actually have the information and results by about 8:15 (they usually delay slightly in releasing it because they are doing some check and recheck of their math as well,) but the official results are often not available until about 10 PM.

  2. Seems to me the choice is clear. On the one hand we have a positive, vibrant, avcomplished woman;, an engaged community leader vs. A nice guy who hasn’t done welll in business at all as a boxing promoterv& is well supported by stealth tea party types.

    • No one, literally no one, understands the human condition better that someone from the boxing world. Besides that, Horton has been successful with boxing. He’s developed fighters to compete on a national level. I also know for a fact that a lot of people support Horton that have absolutely nothing to do with tea party politics.

  3. Knowing the place well ( I grew up there and went to school with the Horton’s and Janet), the far west of Duluth is in sort of a rebellion because of the decades long job problems since all the closings and the move-ins from Chicago. The feeling is this underlying everything…” we are sick of providing housing for Cook County, Il” and ” We are sick of welfare people taking the housing”. So, the area that used to elect Willard Munger and Sam Solon now elects Fosle…a racist redneck whose strength is in the far far west…and then elects DFL and Dalhberg. It might appear confusing, but it’s really about the level of politics. In many ways the area has felt the same pain as the Range towns…Morgan Park, which used to be one of the most stable places there were is now 50% rentals. Many people here had cousins in Hibbing, due to Oliver Mining and U.S. Steel. The largest religious groups were Serbian Orthodox and Catholic. It had an exodus ten years before the Range did…and there were no jobs, none, for miles for decades, thus the diaspora. There still are very few, but its proximity to a larger area has buffered it more than the Range. There has always been an East-West Divide, but now it is different politics. Many out there look at it as “them imposing yet more on us”. The place was very, very white..Janet was one of less than five blacks in all of Denfeld, a school at that time with classes in the hundreds. Having worked in various fields, I will acknowledge a massive urban influx that started in the late 90’s, and even I, as left wing as they come, will tell you that the wonderful system built here has now turned into a great attractor that is stressing the system’s finances and the community. By the time I left the large housing non-profit I worked for, our joke was “When we get someone from Chicago here for a new start, do we order the 30 yard dumpster and new door now or do we wait for the cops to use the battering ram”. We solved it by telling the police to page us 24 hours a day and we will provide you with a master key…fire doors are rather expensive. There is an absolute failure on the part of people like Emily…I remember when she showed up as an intern at CHUM, that there is resentment and a distinct feeling of “You are willing to help everyone else…except the people actually from here”. Chuck represents that in many ways.

    • Paul, you sound just like Rilla Opelt. I didn’t expect a “those people” statement from you. Are you just reporting something? Or, speaking for yourself?

  4. I have lived in Duluth for 25 years. The African American and Native American populations have not risen significantly in those 25 years. The notion of large influxes of people from Chicago is an urban legend, proven so by investigations by both news media and political figures, as well as by census data and school enrollment data.

    What did happen in that time is that the Harborview Housing unit was closed down, and its population shifted further west. Some western neighborhoods have seen a significant influx of racial minorities for that reason. In addition, gentrification and student housing have eaten into traditional black housing in the Central Hillside, resulting in the same sort of shift of minorities to the West. The closing of Central High School and Washington Junior high school and the pushing of children of color to the West by the Red Plan and earlier school district policies is a factor in apparent (and real but small) increases in people of color in the West as well.

    In terms of crime, there is some over-representation of minority populations in Duluth crime statistics, not at all surprising given the typical impact of poverty on crime. However, as the chief of police has repeatedly stated in the media and at public forums, and as available data shows, the overwhelming number of criminals in Duluth are white, as are the overwhelming number of drug dealers. The infamous Chicago drug connection, although it runs through black gangs in Chicago and to some extent the Twin Cities, usually ends in the hands of white drug dealers in Duluth who import the drugs for sale.

    Almost everything wrong in Duluth, including poor school performance, poverty, unemployment, poor housing, homelessness, teen births, crime, drug use, family dysfunction, health problems, and so on is overwhelmingly a white problem, simply because Duluth is overwhelmingly white. Denfeld and East both remain overwhelmingly white as well, although the aforementioned school closings have pushed more children of color into Denfeld and its feeders than were present in earlier decades, when it was actually the most white of the high schools. White people, especially in poor neighborhoods in West Duluth and the Hillside, have legitimate complaints about the fact that their children are falling into all those negative categories, and those complaints need to be addressed, but African Americans or Native Americans are not the cause of those problems, and in fact are largely the victims as well, just as whites are.

    I know and like Chuck Horton. His life story and his commitment to youth is inspirational. When he becomes informed about issues he very often comes to strong appropriate conclusions — his position on the Fond Du Luth Casino is a good example, as is his call for an increased commitment to rehab as a tool in the drug problem. Unfortunately, when he is not well informed, he tends to fall back on knee-jerk right wing tropes not backed by real data. The high visibility of black people in Duluth, a function of their blackness and their very low numbers, is a problem in causing people who have not been able to actually look at the hard data to jump to incorrect conclusions, at least partly based on racial generalizations if not outright racism.

    As the election wears on, Emily Larson is going to need to address some of these questions herself, and in that way Chuck is performing a positive service in bringing them to the fore. I will be shocked if Emily does not crush Chuck in the general election, but having him be an active candidate is good for Duluth, both as a tool for bringing real issues into the election, and as a source of false information that many Duluthians believe and that needs to be debunked. Chuck himself needs to sit down with the chief of police and the county prosecutors and become informed about these problems, rather than jumping to conclusions, so that he can play a role in educating his constituents, as he already is on Fond du Luth and on drug rehabilitation.

  5. I have said this in other places, so here goes. I think, as someone who would know it well, that there was probably more drug and alcohol use in the late 70’s and early 80’s in the area than there is now. They are different drugs, for example, less cocaine and more meth, but to say “there is an epidemic” fails to understand just how much there was at other times. There are more people dying from heroin, but less people dying or injured from alcohol. And for anyone to say ” It is the…” (name your minority), also ignores that. Whereas meth used to be much less available, as it was a few whites who used it and at that time controlled by the bikers (for all those romanticizing them, I’ve got some stories), and cocaine was much more available and popular, it is really perception and sensationalism. Besides all that, the most dangerous and commonly used drug is alcohol, unless we consider nicotine. I understand what poverty does, having actually experienced it, but, having also worked in human services, including low income housing, homelessness and drug and alcohol treatment, my empirical observation was that some of it was not just about money, but about dysfunctional and eventually criminal behavior. And, most likely, unlike the potential name callers who cringed when I said ” those people”, I have actually been homeless and engaged in those very behaviors and have many friends who did so. And, if there is one thing that we know will not work, it is handing out cash. I cleaned apartments filled with items taken from the clothing exchange and left in the bags, once emptied an SRO apartment filled with 148 40 oz bottles of urine, replaced countless 900 dollar gypsum filled fire doors, and watched as a Native woman was punished for racism because when she checked on three children at the behest of the aunt, found the mother had left them for three days alone and called IIU, and was then accused of “racism and oppression” against an African -American. Or, watched the countless social experiments at Women’s transitional housing, predicatively run into the ground when it was left to incapable hires who would naturally “rise to the job” and whose lives were merely the result of oppression, despite the fact they had no skills and the only thing one wouldn’t steal was a red hot stove. One’s mother, a lakota, was also the main provider of young native girls to the ships for two decades, something never mentioned in all the sex trafficking reports. These are not apocryphal stories, they are actual observations. Sometimes poverty is the problem, sometimes it isn’t. If you hand $1000 dollars to a stroller pusher with a baby daddy expecting it to be spent on useful items, you will go back three months later and find a pawn slip for a 60 inch flat screen the boyfriend sold for a series of dimebags and three new tattoos. That’s reality. People see that. And when they are struggling themselves, as most working people are and have been, a resentment takes hold when they see the neighbor demolishing the newest subsidized duplex down the street. And that is where liberal institutions have absolutely failed. They have continued to comply with that has been a 35 year economic disaster for most, and worried themselves with such things as mountain bike trails and saving a few at CHUM.

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