Tuesday special election for Itasca County board

This Tuesday, Oct. 3, voters will select from three candidates in the District 5 Itasca County board primary election. The top two will advance to a Dec. 12 general election in the race to replace Commissioner Mark Mandich, who resigned due to health issues earlier this year.

The Scenic Range News Forum previewed the race and interviewed the three candidates in a story last week.

Ben DeNucci

  • Mayor of Nashwauk, involved in local DFL Party
  • owner of DeNucci’s Saloon in Nashwauk, Keewatin Auto Repair, and a rental property management company
  • Tells the Scenic Range News Forum:

Other concerns of his include good financial stewardship, road repair, and promoting economic growth. “We need more small businesses, and we need Chippewa (formerly Essar) to get across the finish line,” said DeNucci, who says he already has practical experience in working with Chippewa and planning for economic development. ​“I’m running because I’m dedicated to public service, and I feel this position needs someone like me who has been active and visible in my community,” DeNucci stated.

Roger Weber

  • Retired miner, involved in local Republican Party
  • Former candidate for State House and Itasca County Board
  • Tells the Scenic Range News Forum:

Weber believes the county’s most pressing problem is its finances, with businesses suffering and closing due to taxes they can’t afford. “I talk to working people and hear from them we are in survival mode,” Weber said, adding, “In order to keep people from moving away from here we are going to have to lower taxes.”

He advocates an unusual method for reducing the county’s budget – cutting down on Section 8 housing (rental housing assistance), something that Weber asserts draws low-income people into the county and ultimately increases the number of low-paying jobs.

Weber says he has noticed a sense of apathy from some people in the district that do not feel their vote can make a difference, but that is something that he wants to change by representing them with a loud and clear voice from District 5.

Casey Venema

Lawrence Township Supervisor

Owner of Lawrence Lake welding, former miner, Greenway Recreation Board

Tells the Scenic Range News Forum:

Breaking what he hopes to accomplish while in office into three categories, Venema wants to focus on roads, the budget and jobs.

“At the fairgrounds I talked to people from all over the county for days, and the roads are a huge issue,” said Venema.

While Venema believes keeping the county budget balanced is going to be very challenging, he feels it is a must. Meanwhile, jobs through tourism, mining and encouraging small businesses are ways he sees to bring money into the county to ease pressure on the budget. “We need Essar and other plants up and running, and we have to help keep the resorts that are here alive, and as a county help our neighbors running small businesses,” Venema said.

There’s a lot more in the story.


This eastern Itasca County District is “majority Iron Range,” which means that it’s still tied into the recent political mojo of mining, unions and Trumpism. It’s also divided geographically between multiple school districts: Nashwauk-Keewatin and Greenway and Grand Rapids. Of the three, however, N-K is located entirely within the District 5 borders and has the most population as well. As such, DeNucci probably starts this process as a favorite. However, there are plenty of Venema and Weber signs dotted along the autumn landscape. Venema will benefit from his connections to Greenway’s Rec Board and is an easy favorite in his small home township. Weber has a history of confrontational behavior and is probably best known among the small but growing group of local Republicans and anti-establishment types.

Turnout Tuesday will be light. I can’t imagine what turnout will be in December. This election was scheduled to be a sleepy affair, and as such I can’t accurately predict who will emerge. Probably DeNucci and Venema, but stranger things have certainly happened. It all depends on who shows up to vote.


  1. Im hoping to seeRoger get in, he will listen to us& speak up! He is right, we are stuck in survival mode.
    Taxes are hard on us.
    We have to cut and cut our budgets but the county gives the top paid wage increases but not the guys who make less. We need a commisioner who wont give himself a raise then do less work!

  2. Where do we find primary results?

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