Tuesday is primary day

Ely mayoral race, sheriff and state legislature contests loom

by Tom Coombe
A somewhat quiet primary election season comes to a head this week.
Voters in the Ely area and across the state will go to the polls on Tuesday, but few races seem to have captured much attention.
Within the Ely city limits, a three-candidate field for mayor will be trimmed to two.
Across the area, the contest that may be the most competitive is a Republican primary for State Senate, with Babbitt Mayor Andrea Zupancich, who has the party endorsement, facing off with former mining industry lobbyist Kelsey Johnson.
St. Louis County also has one high-profile contest, with three candidates vying to move on to the general election for county sheriff..
Primary elections typically don’t generate the turnout of general elections in the fall when sometimes 80 percent or more of the electorate cast ballots.
Over 850 Ely voters turned out in 2018, but that included a hotly-contested race for county commissioner and several candidates in a Congressional primary.
Locally, two candidates will advance from Tuesday’s primary in contest for Ely’s top political post.
Two current council members, Paul Kess and Heidi Omerza, are running for mayor. They’re joined on the ballot by Mark Haarman.
The top two vote-getters will square off in November, with the winner succeeding Roger Skraba, who is not seeking re-election and is instead running for the Minnesota House of Representatives.
While Skraba hopes to unseat current State Rep. Rob Ecklund, it’s a wide-open race to replace retiring State Sen. Tom Bakk, who is leaving the legislature after nearly 30 years of service.
Zupancich and Johnson face each other for the Republican nod, with the winner moving on to November to take on Democrat Grant Hauschild of Hermantown.
In St. Louis County, the sheriff’s race is the subject of a contested primary, with undersheriff Jason Lukovsky, former Duluth police chief Gordon Ramsay and Chad Walsh all on the ballot.
Two will earn spots in the general election, and the winner then will succeed Ross Litman in the county’s top law enforcement post.
U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber needs to ward off a challenge from Duluth’s Harry Welty in a Republican primary, while the Republican attorney general primary has generated some attention with 2020 candidate Doug Wardlow meeting party endorsed Jim Schultz.
After this week, the attention and rhetoric figure to ramp up with Minnesota’s governor race and Congressional and state legislative races figuring to generate plenty of interest.
Area polling places are all open Tuesday until 8 p.m.