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Election season approaches, and cooperation may be the casualty

Politics on the Iron Range are always interesting, but in recent years a bit of unpredictability has been thrown in.

The winds have shifted and Democrats no longer have the stronghold they once did here.

After all, a Republican now represents the Ely area in Congress and, for the first time in decades, in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

The last State Senate contest was decided by less than 1,000 votes and in the last two cycles the region has become a battleground in the Presidential race - rather than a place where Democrats ran up the score.

The last 12 months have provided a welcome break from the negative ads, the never-ending arrival of campaign mailings and - in  what has been a more recent occurrence - the political races spilling on to our social media feeds.

On a local level, we’ve been impressed with the civility and cooperation displayed by our two legislators - with Democrat State Senator Grant Hauschild and Republican State Representative Roger Skraba working together more often than not for a bevy of local projects.

Our nursing home and our schools and our trails are just three things that are better off now than they were a year ago because of the work Hauschild and Skraba did together, rather than in conflict, since taking office.

Their alliance will clearly be put to the test in 2024, much more so than this year.

There are elections coming up and high stakes ones at that.

National politics including what’s certain to be a bitter and divisive presidential race will dominate the news.

It’s inevitable that there will be some spillover into local contests as well.

Skraba may have caught a break with last week’s announcement that former State Rep. Rob Ecklund (D-International Falls), who lost by a mere 13 votes to Skraba a year ago, won’t attempt to win his old seat back.

But make no mistake Skraba will have a DFL opponent, and likely a prominent and well-funded one at that.

His will be one of many high-profile races on the ballot, one that’s topped off by a likely presidential rematch, a U.S. Senate contest and perhaps another duel between Stauber and Duluth’s Jen Schultz for the Congressional seat.

While Hauschild and Skraba have obviously worked together and appear to enjoy doing so, they’re also on two different “teams” when it comes to politics and both will face the tug of their party diehards.

Does Hauschild work passionately for Skraba’s opponent? Does Skraba go all-in on the Republican side in an effort to keep his seat?

Both have decisions to make soon as do area voters.

In some respects this is the calm before the storm.

Fall Lake voters will be going to the polls Tuesday to pick a new county commissioner. Both Joe Baltich and Jack Nelson have run common sense, respectable campaigns.

Once the calendar turns to 2024, the political season will ramp up and will only get more intense as the months proceed.

Voters will be tugged in one direction or another, in an effort to make next year a referendum between “Red” and “Blue” politics.

But this year has shown us that it’s possible to be bipartisan, and also that one-party control in St. Paul is a bridge too far.

We’d all be wise to step back and look at the bigger picture as election season approaches, and resist the extremes that will without question rise up, tempt and perhaps dominate over the next 12 months.

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