Ely Echo Editorial: First test passed with flying colors, now the work begins for local mayors

Races for the state legislature often don’t generate a lot of attention. Sure, locally they do but if you’re looking for the latest polls in a primary, you’re going to have to look further up the ballots.
Both Ely mayor Roger Skraba and Babbitt mayor Andrea Zupancich were confident going into Tuesday’s primary election. But until the votes were tabulated, anything was possible for the two Republicans.
By 11 p.m. it was apparent Skraba would go on to challenge Rep. Rob Ecklund and Zupancich would face Democrat Grant Hauschild to replace retiring Sen. Tom Bakk.
First hurdle down, the biggest one yet to go. There is a lot on the line for the Ely area which could have local representation in St. Paul for the first time. In the past decades it’s been Cook, Orr, International Falls and Two Harbors that have enjoyed one of their residents voting in St. Paul.
This time around it’s possible Ely and Babbitt could host a Minnesota state representatives and a state senator. But it won’t come easy.
Both parties are watching this area very closely. The Iron Range has been a Democrat bastion for decades. But the times and the voters are changing. Two years ago Ecklund nearly lost to a Republican candidate with no political experience who did very little campaigning. The Range itself has shown support for Donald Trump and Pete Stauber at the federal level. Will local Republicans also enjoy that change at the ballot box in November?
While it’s no secret Ecklund may very well be the last elected Democrat in this area of the state, it is apparent Bakk saw the writing on the wall. He changed from Democrat to Independent in his final term and would’ve been a strong Republican candidate if he had chosen to run again.
There’s a lot of weeks between now and election day so be prepared for an onslaught of door knocking and advertising from each party along with special interest groups and political action committees.
The North Country is under fire and it looks like the Republicans have the Democrats on the run.