EDITORIAL: Ely area would have a double whammy without Bakk, Tomassoni

Ely has been very fortunate to have not one, but two senators in St. Paul who keep a watchful eye out for us. We know Sen. Dave Tomassoni won’t be running, but we do hope that Sen. Tom Bakk throws his hat in the ring one more time.
Tomassoni, who has been stricken with amyotrphic lateral sclerosis (ALS), has announced he won’t seek another term.
In a discussion with him recently, Bakk noted the one thing he can’t change, his age. At 67 he’s turned into a senior statesman after roaming the halls at the Capitol for nearly 30 years.
During that time he’s been a strong supporter for everything from outdoor recreation to mining and logging.
He comes from a union background but the Labor part of the Democrat Farm Labor party does not include him anymore. Bakk and Tomassoni switched from DFL to Independent and their influence in the Senate grew. Now it appears Bakk will switch to the Republican party.
“I have not made a decision yet,” Bakk said recently. “But there’s no way I would ever run as a Democrat. If I decide to run I will be pursuing the Republican endorsement for the State Senate district.”
If that statement by that elected official isn’t setting off alarms at the state DFL headquarters, the problem in that party is even worse than thought.
While both parties suffer at times from being controlled by extremists, the DFL has lost touch with northeast Minnesota after historically being a stronghold for the party. The Range delegation was all DFL for decades. Soon it may be all Republican.
Bakk saying he would run as a Republican will still come as a surprise to some considering his pedigree. He was a longtime Democrat who followed in the footsteps of Doug Johnson, his predecessor in the Senate.
Bakk wold go on to head the Senate DFL caucus as majority leader from 2013-17 and with two stints as minority leader, in 2011 and 2012 and again from 2017-19.
At a county Republican meeting held in Mt. Iron, Bakk told those gathered that “I’ve been a lunch bucket Democrat all of my life but the Democratic party has left me and people like me.”
Bakk and Tomassoni have publicly clashed with Democrats on several issues, ranging from mining to Gov. Tim Walz’s Covid-19 mitigation measures and emergency powers.
Bakk knows if he a Tomassoni are both gone, our area will take a step backward politically. And he will miss his friend Tomassoni who at times filled in for Bakk at Ely events.
“That’s a big loss for the region,” said Bakk. “He’s done an outstanding job for all of us regardless of political affiliation.”
Bakk has not said he will run, just that if he does it will be as a Republican. Let’s hope we see his name on the ballot this fall.