Labor-endorsed candidates picked up five victories in the eight Duluth positions that were up for election last week.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson and incumbent At-Large City Councilor Arik Forsman were re-elected to their seats. Janet Kennedy won the 5th District City Council race, becoming the first black city councilor in Duluth’s history.
At-Large City Councilor Noah Hobbs was not re-elected as Derek Medved won the other At-Large seat, and Theresa O’Halloran-Johnson lost to Roz Randorf in the 3rd District City Council race. Gary Anderson beat Becky Hall in the First District. David Kirby was re-elected to the Second District seat on the Duluth School Board, and Paul Sandholm was elected to the Third District seat. John Schwetman lost to incumbent Alanna Oswald in the At-Large seat on the school board.
In Cloquet, Chris Swanson advanced in the special primary for the 3rd District City Council race.
A split between DFL and Labor endorsements in some of the races highlighted an ongoing issue for both sides: A feeling of division between historically strong allies.
“We had mixed results because some of our partners didn’t come through for us this year,” said Alan Netland, president of the North East Area Labor Council. “We are going to have to have some frank discussions with some of our fair-weather friends about their continued involvement in this upcoming critical 2020 election year.”
Katie Humphrey, field coordinator for the NEALC, oversaw Labor’s coordinated campaign and said low voter turnout didn’t do any favors to Labor candidates.
Humphrey also said the tactic of bullet voting — picking one candidate out of four in the at-large city council race, when voters could pick up to two — likely cost Hobbs his seat. She said a different process for at-large seats, such as ranking candidates or putting them up head-to-head, can result in a more representative outcome.
City council races are officially nonpartisan, and Humphrey said an issue like Earned Sick and Safe Time highlight how every vote matters on the council. “We had to put a ton of pressure on each vote during the ESST campaign, and with more conservatives on the council, that will hurt the most vulnerable in the city.”
Humphrey said she would also like to see more focus on school board races. “I feel like they didn’t get the airtime they deserved,” she said. “All seats are equally important.”
She said Labor did a good job focusing on precincts that had had lower turnout in the past, and Netland highlighted the important roles individual unions played in the night’s victories. “We particularly want to thank AFSCME Local 66, AFSCME Council 5, Firefighters Local 101, Laborers District Council, Operating Engineers Local 49 and the Painters District Council for financial support for our endorsed candidates,” he said.