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Former state lawmaker Tom Rukavina dies after battling illness

The DFLer from the Iron Range was 68.

Former Minnesota lawmaker Tom Rukavina, known for his fiery and plain-spoken approach to state politics, has died at the age of 68.

The DFLer and Virginia native served 26 years on the Minnesota Legislature, representing the eastern Iron Range, before retiring in 2012.

He was also a St. Louis County Commissioner, until last year he announced he wouldn't be seeking re-election so he could focus on health issues, as reported by The Timberjay last April.

WCCO's Pat Kessler reports that the former lawmaker was battling leukemia.

Rukavina ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in the 2010 election, delivering an electrifying speech at the DFL convention only to then back the eventually endorsed nominee Margaret Kelliher, who was ultimately beaten in the primary by Mark Dayton.

"As a longtime representative in the Minnesota Legislature, Tom was a bulldog for, not only his constituents on the Iron Range, but all of the working men and women in Minnesota," said DFL chairman Ken Martin in a statement on Monday.

"Tom Rukavina was known for his honesty, his authenticity, and his advocacy for those trying to build a better life for their families. Today Minnesota lost a one-of-a-kind individual who left a deep impression on everyone who knew him. My thoughts and best wishes are with his entire family."

Tributes have started coming in from Rukavina's former colleagues and Minnesota politicians.

Prior to taking office, Rukavina worked as a logger in Chisholm, a miner at the MinnTac taconite plant, and as an assistant director at Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort, the Duluth News Tribune notes.

Before being elected to the state legislature in 1986, Rukavina worked as a miner at MinnTac and also served on the Virginia School Board and the Pike Township Board.

Here's Rukavina's campaign video from when he ran for governor in 2010.

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