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Editorial: Crossing party lines: Hauschild, Skraba show what can be done

Rep. Roger Skraba and Sen. Grant Hauschild at the grand opening of the new city of Babbitt campground.

Political polarization is the norm nowadays.

It’s clearly that way nationally and it sure seems to be that way on a statewide and regional level.

Democrats and Republicans have never been this far apart on issues ranging from taxes and spending to mining and guns.

If anything, the Covid-19 pandemic set the two parties even farther apart and still leaves lingering resentment and bitterness.

More and more often, at least anecdotally, one hears of family and longtime friends divided, or relationships torn apart because of political disagreements.

The United States?  All too often we are the hopelessly Divided States.

That’s why it was refreshing, if not downright shocking, to sit in on a gathering last week at the Boundary Waters Care Center, where the region’s two new legislators - State Sen. Grant Hauschild (D)  and State Rep. Roger Skraba (R) - met with nursing home administrator Adam Masloski.

The meeting’s number-one topic was the recent financial crisis at Ely’s nursing home and the many steps taken to at least partially alleviate it.

While some private fundraising efforts and a helping hand from Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital obviously helped the nursing home keep its doors open, there was action in St. Paul - supported by both area lawmakers - that was pivotal as well.

Political leanings were put aside here as Hauschild and Skraba worked together to help preserve the future of a community asset.

But discussion also revealed that the legislators didn’t just cooperate on the nursing home issue.

The state bonding bill and other legislation passed last month ensures that state money will flow north for a bevy of projects.

Ely’s hamstrung school renovation project will get a better than $4 million shot in the arm while Vermilion Community College will get funds to repair its classroom building.

The list doesn’t stop there. More state money will be pumped into the region’s ATV trail system and local governments - including counties, cities and school districts - will see more money for day-to-day operations.

Projects in nearby Babbitt, Tower and Embarrass will get cash as well, and the meeting at the nursing home revealed that our new legislators didn’t just cooperate.  They also strategized to maximize the return for their region.

Hauschild used his pull as part of the Senate’s majority party while Skraba caucused with Republicans to gain support for legislation that emerged from the House.

While that’s probably what any of us as constituents would expect, given the political dynamics it’s surprising - and without question that’s good to see.

One might even make the argument that the region benefited from having representation from both parties and that the bounty from St. Paul would not be as large if we were represented by two Democrats - or a pair of Republicans.

Despite their detente, Hauschild and Skraba remain apart on many, many issues.  They are part of clearly competing visions for the state, and we suspect that in the aftermath of the DFL trifecta there will be more of a pull toward the middle in the coming months and years. Single-party rule, whether its DFL or Republican, has too many drawbacks.

We don’t expect Hauschild to switch his allegiance to Donald Trump or Pete Stauber in next year’s presidential or U.S. House races, and Hell will freeze over before Skraba has a “Re-elect Biden” sign in his Harvey Street yard.

But the region’s legislators showed that it’s not only possible, but permissible and beneficial to work together sometimes.

We’ll all benefit if we see more of that.  At all levels of government and even in our daily lives.

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