The process was new to many, but it worked: The Duluth Central Labor Body screened several candidates for upcoming races and made recommendations for endorsement earlier this month, all on an online platform.
First up was Pat Boyle, the incumbent commissioner in St. Louis County District 2. He talked about his vote supporting refugee settlement in the county. “That was one of the easiest decisions,” he said. “I’ve had some hard ones, but ‘cmon, that’s what our community and our country are made of. Refugees and immigrants do some of the toughest jobs we have, just like our refugee and immigrant grandparents did. It’s the right thing to do.”
Boyle is running unopposed and the body voted to endorse him.
Next, Ashley Grimm spoke. She is running for the St. Louis County District 3 commissioner seat. She works at the Damiano Center and said she sees every day the importance of good-paying jobs in the community. “We have a strong contingent representing Duluth and the surrounding area [on the board], and I want to continue building long-term relationships.
When asked about mining issues, Grimm said she’s “not interested in being a protest vote, but I also know that if I wouldn’t send my family there, it’s not something I can speak for.”
Her opponents are Erc Erkkila and Joe Macor. The body voted to hold off on endorsing in this race until after the August primary.
Ironworker Keith Musolf is running for his second term as commissioner in St. Louis County District 5. He had voted with commissioners Mike Jugovich, Paul McDonald and Keith Nelson in favor of sending the resolution to administration, effectively tabling it. During the screening, he stressed that the county is still open to refugees and said he was trying to navigate an issue that brought up heated arguments “on both sides.”
Musolf also said he had been working with people to support Line 3 because of its preventive maintenance role.
His opponent is Tammy Sundbom. She addressed the body and said she wanted to “invest myself further before I comment” on the issue of voting to accept refugees in the county.
The body voted to endorse Musolf.
In the District 7A race, DFLer Jen Schultz represents the east half of Duluth and is running for her fourth term. She is a member of the UEA and serves on its executive committee. Schultz talked about the current work of the special session, which is focusing on criminal justice reform.
When asked about the Line 3 issue, Schultz said a proposal in the House had strong support and that she is optimistic a solution will be found that balances tribal, environmental and economic concerns.
Republican Tom Sullivan spoke briefly, asking rhetorically, “Am I against unions? Absolutely not.” He highlighted the importance of enforcing OSHA laws.
The body voted to endorse Schultz.
In the District 7B race, DFLer Liz Olson is running for her third term. She is currently serving as a majority whip in the House. She highlighted her work on bonding bills and holding the line on worker protections, as well as cross-border licensure over the last term.
“We thought the special session would be about bonding and COVID, but it’s more than that,” she said. “Some reforms have good bipartisan support, but others will be more difficult.”
Republican Art Johnson is running against Olson. He also spoke about the importance of OSHA to protect worker safety.
The body voted to endorse Olson.