The Duluth Central Labor Body made some endorsing decisions in City Council races at its meeting last week after screening candidates.
In the District 2 race, it endorsed Dave Zbaracki. In District 4, it endorsed incumbent Renee Van Nett. In the at-large race, it endorsed Terese Tomanek, who was appointed to finish Barb Russ’ term and is now running for the seat.
The body considered endorsing one additional candidate in the at-large race and opted not to at this time.
District 2 City Council
Mike Mayou and Dave Zbaracki screened for the endorsement in this race. Mayou works at UMD and Duluth Public Schools, while Zbaracki described himself as a full-time dad. Both have run for city council positions in past races.
Zbaracki described his top three priorities for the city as streets, sidewalks and public safety issues. “People want cities to do things that cities ought to do well,” he said.
Mayou said his top three priorities were affordable housing, environmental justice — both of which, he pointed out, boosted union jobs — and being a responsive counselor. Both candidates said they strongly supported PLAs.
“Labor keeps the Northland moving,” Zbaracki said.
“I grew up with union values, an will speak up about things that hurt workers,” Mayou said.
The body voted to endorse Zbaracki.
District 4 City Council
Incumbent Councilor Renee Van Nett was the only candidate to screen with the CLB in the District 4 race. She described her top three issues as child care, economic development and housing, and public safety, saying, “city council work is nuts and bolts. I don’t play games about it.” She was elected president of the city council for this term and is a member of AFSCME.
The body voted to endorse her.
At-Large City Council
Five candidates screened with the body in this race: current councilor Terese Tomanek, Ashlie Castaldo, Azri Awal, Pez Davila, and Joe Macor. Davila was not able to attend the screening as he was attending Denfeld High School’s graduation ceremonies but provided extensive written answers.
“Being the program director at Neighborhood Youth Services, we work with many seniors from Denfeld and have worked hard to help those students graduate,” he said in his statement. “Many of them coming from tough home lives, single parents, homelessness, and seemingly without hope. I couldn’t miss this opportunity to see these students gleam with pride as they walke across that stage, some being the first in their entire faimly to receive a diploma.”
Tomanek said her top priorities are affordable housing and getting people back to work through economic support and development. Awal, who said she had experienced homelessness in her life, said housing and transportation were important to her. “The city is beautiful and should be accessible,” she said, adding that her final priority was racial and class equity.
Castaldo said a strong workforce with good economic standing and housing helps build public safety. Macor said investing in infrastructure and fiscal responsibility were key.
When it came for making a case for endorsement, Castaldo said her record as a union officer on a negotiating team speaks for itself. “I’ve been at the table personally — I know the steps it takes to get work done.”
Macor described himself as “a good fit,” while Awal said, “I stand for equity in all facets of life — what I understand is Labor issues are equity and equity is Labor issues.
Tomanek touted her strong campaign staff and experience.
When asked about how, as an at-large councilor, they would ensure to serve the entire community, Awal described her immigrant family’s experience — she was born in Bangladesh — from a marginalized background as a way to be sure she would look for equitable and diverse voices. Castaldo said her own experience with autism has taught her to reflect on ways to remove barriers for others. Tomanek talked about her growing self-education about racial and economic issues.
In his statement, Davila said he supported unions for a variety of reasons: The way the trades can help give kids who aren’t interested in college a way to get started in life, the way they help keep wages high in the community that can then go back into the community and the sense of pride that they bring. He also said he supported PLAs and stressed that taking jobs from union members “doesn’t mean you’ve gotten rid of the union, it means you’ved caused someone to not be able to provide for themselves and their loved ones.”
The body voted to endorse Tomanek and then decided to not endorse another candidate at this time.