PolyMet, steel mining pose big questions for today's election in NE MN

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Voters in House District 3A – the state’s largest, spanning 230 miles in northeastern Minnesota – will go to the polls to pick a new state representative following the death of former Rep. David Dill over the summer.

There are three candidates:

  • Independent Kelsey Johnson (a political newcomer and lobbyist)
  • Republican Roger Skraba (the former mayor of Ely and former DFLer)
  • Democrat Rob Ecklund (a Koochiching County commissioner, who won the DFL primary back in late September)

Results will be posted Tuesday night here on the Secretary of State's website.

Mining a big focus

Mining, of course, is at the top of many people's minds, and there are two large prongs to it right now.

First, what will happen with the controversial proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in the district. That was the main topic for Ecklund in his primary battle to be the DFL candidate, and he's called himself "100 percent pro-mining." (Meanwhile a fellow DFL hopeful who was anti-copper mining finished second).

The Republican Skraba is vocal on Twitter about his support for the mine, which is in the midst of a continued lengthy review process after a DNR review found it would not pollute the Boundary Waters.

And Johnson has said that issue is over, and it's time to make sure it's done right while focusing on what's next, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

The second prong is the current state of the steel industry, which is in a downturn – resulting in hundreds of layoffs in the region.

The Duluth News Tribune asked the candidates about that (and a few other topics), and here's a brief summary of their responses:

  • Ecklund said he wants to encourage regional construction projects to buy locally-made steel.;
  • Skraba blamed the financial issues partly on regulation, which he said makes it expensive to do in Minnesota;
  • and Johnson pitched growing the types of jobs available by promoting more small business measures.

KBJR has a video conversation with all three candidates – check it out here or embedded below.

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The winner of the Dec. 8 special election will finish out the rest of Dill’s term, which runs through the end of 2016.

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