Forum to profile two hot Range primaries

PHOTO: R.J. Thiel, via City Files

Hibbing City Hall. PHOTO: R.J. Thiel, via

On Thursday, June 23, candidates in the House 6A DFL primary and St. Louis County board district 7 primary will participate in a forum at the Hibbing City Hall sponsored by the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce. Even though the prior is a legislative race and the latter a county race, both districts overlap at their biggest cities, Hibbing and Chisholm.

As I’ve previewed, both races are hard to predict and will rely heavily on retail campaigning and the silent primary of what voters tell each other on the street corners, in the post offices, and at the coffee klatches of the west central Mesabi Iron Range.

In the county board race, candidates include Chisholm Mayor Mike Jugovich, Hibbing school board president and county social worker Jeff Polcher, Chisholm city councilor Mary Jo Rahja, and Hibbing family peace advocate Melissa Scaia. The top two candidates will advance out of the primary to face each other in November.

The county board forum will be from 5-6:30 p.m.

This race seems to be shaping up as a contest of personalities. Thursday’s forum could provide some interesting perspective on the candidates’ priorities.

In House 6A, the DFL candidates include Nashwauk Mayor and business owner Ben DeNucci, music teacher Julie Sandstede of Hibbing, salesman Mike Thompson of Cherry, and former Rick Nolan aide Tom Whiteside of Hibbing.

That forum will be from 6:45-8:15 p.m.

This race is developing, at least partially, into a regional showdown. DeNucci’s deep support in the Itasca County portion of the district will be contrasted with two well-organized candidates, Sandstede and Whiteside, in the district’s largest city of Hibbing. Thompson is a political outsider running as moderate. There are other factors, but which voters turn out and where will probably be the biggest determiner. The winner will face Republican Rob Farnsworth in November and write-in candidate Steven Hakly of Cherry.

You can watch the forums on Hibbing Public Access Television, which recently added a live streaming option.

Panelists for the forum include the Rev. Erickson, Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church; Steve Potts, a History Instructor at Hibbing Community College; Bill Lowry, Vice President, Max Gray Construction; and Lory Fedo, President of the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce.

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