Another election season has come and gone. Your results, with percentages followed by actual vote totals:
Emily Larson 71.9 (15,352)
Chuck Horton 27.5 (5,862)
It’s a long-anticipated coronation, as Larson rolls into office. She’s basically been inevitable since most of the realistic challengers stood down early in the election cycle, and now she finally gets to move toward governance. Her policies will likely be a continuation of those of her predecessor, Don Ness; under Larson, Duluth should continue its re-invention as a creative, energetic city. Still, she’ll certainly have an opportunity to carve out her own legacy outside of Ness’s long shadow, and we’ll see what innovative ideas she brings forward, and how she looks to manage those who aren’t all on board with the Ness agenda. She is Duluth’s first female mayor.
City Council District One
Gary Anderson 61.9 (3,902)
Karl Spring 37.9 (2,389)
No great surprise here, as the far east side elects the more liberal candidate to replace Jennifer Julsrud.
City Council District Two
Joel Sipress (I) 97.5 (2,891)
After an unopposed run, Sipress returns to a council where he is suddenly among the more senior members. First appointed in 2014 after Patrick Boyle was elected to the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners, he now gets a full four-year term.
City Council District Three
Em Westerlund 82.4 (2,278)
Barri Love (withdrew from race) 16.8 (465)
Love’s withdrawal left Westerlund with no competition in this race to replace Sharla Gardner in the center of the city.
City Council District Five
Jay Fosle (I) 56.4 (2,215)
Janet Kennedy 43.4 (1,705)
The far west side of the city retains its contrarian streak and returns Fosle, a frequent skeptic of the Ness governing consensus, for a third term. Kennedy made up some ground on her primary gap, but ultimately failed to break through. Fosle is usually left playing the grumbling protest vote, though I definitely give him credit for occasional independent streak that produces some insights and occasionally highlights some perspectives that wouldn’t otherwise get a seat at the table. He is now the most senior member of the council.
City Council At-Large (Two open seats)
Elissa Hansen 37.8 (12,192)
Noah Hobbs 28.8 (9,271)
Jim Booth 21.5 (6,922)
Kris Osbakken 11.5 (3,699)
This script looks just like the one two years ago, as the two DFL candidates move through, leaving a conservative in third and a local Green Party figure in fourth. Hansen, a dynamic candidate with a background in economic development, was a shoo-in from the start. Hobbs, a younger guy with a lot of passion for the west side, should provide an interesting voice in coming debates over the future of that side of the city. The other two were always long shots.
City Council Big Picture: The Council’s ideological composition didn’t shift at all, as the lone conservative incumbent retained his seat and moderate liberals cleaned up everywhere else. There is on notable shift, though: there’s a youth movement afoot. Three of the nine councilors are now under thirty, and a fourth is in her thirties. In Don Ness’s wake there has been a generational shift in this city, and there’s a lot of young energy making its move into city politics. Do my generation proud, kids.
School Board District Two
David Kirby 59.7 (2,776)
Charles Obije 40.0 (1,857)
Kirby’s big lead from the primary carried through to the general election, and it’s little surprise to see him cruise through in a wealthy district that values its public education. He succeeds the polarizing Judy Seliga-Punyko, and he now gets to negotiate the school board minefield: is his positive talk a genuine desire to move forward from all this past junk, or will he follow his predecessor in staking out the battle lines? I thought Obije appeared a strong candidate, and hope he remains involved in some capacity.
School Board District Three
Nora Sandstad 64.2 (3,111)
Loren Martell 35.2 (1,705)
This makes three elections and three decisive losses for Martell; I thought he had a chance this time around, given his exposure through Reader columns and a more forgiving district. Instead, Sandstad carried the day. Like Kirby, she’s largely kept mum on big issues and said all the right things about staying positive and moving past recent ugliness; the big question now is how her apparent independence will play out in practice.
School Board At-Large
Alanna Oswald 51.5 (9,621)
Renee Van Nett 47.6 (8,910)
The tightest race of the evening also involved its biggest shift from the primary, as Oswald came back from an early deficit to ease past Van Nett. She was probably the most dynamic campaigner of the bunch, and if she can bring this energy to the board, it will be a very different place. If she can retain her independence, she’ll be a force. I also hope Van Nett continues her advocacy in key areas even though she’s not on the board.
School Board Big Picture: It’s a potential changing of the guard in ISD 709, as three consistent votes in the monolithically pro-administration bloc retire and three fairly new faces in Duluth school debates make their way in. Unlike some of the current and outgoing members, they don’t have long records siding with one side of the dead horse Red Plan debates. With two solid pro-administration votes and two staunch critics among the remaining members, these three now have the power to play kingmaker. Whatever they decide, one hopes they will stay above past squabbles, ask tough questions, and dig into the district’s most pressing debates. Color me cautiously optimistic that some new blood will leave the old debates behind and provide a much-needed jolt of energy for the real issues at stake.
Ranked Choice Voting Ballot Question
No 74.7 (15,564)
Yes 25.3 (5,271)
My own opinions aside, this was quite the decisive vote. It shows how a campaign with considerable outside financial backing can fall to a largely grassroots local campaign (though Walter Mondale did weigh in on the ‘no’ side in the final week). It’s also distinctly Duluth, as the city chose not to follow in lockstep with the trend in the Twin Cities. Duluth elections will be a bit simpler for it, and perhaps we’ve finally heard the last of this well-intentioned but poorly supported and ultimately misguided attempt to “improve” democracy. Back to the real issues.
Non-Binding Lakeside Liquor Ban Repeal
Yes 59.3 (11,528)
No 40.7 (7,912)
This was, weirdly, a city-wide question, and the rest of the city had stronger opinions than the Lakeside residents did. Even so, opinion in Lakeside has shifted some since the 2008 referendum on this topic; at that point, it fell one vote short, while the DNT is now reporting the repeal got about 53 percent of the vote. Before I die, I will be able to buy a damn beer in my childhood neighborhood. (No, the 3.2 Coors at Super One does not count.)
Method of Setting City Council Pay Ballot Question
Yes 67.0 (14,031)
No 33.0 (6,917)
This procedural move lets the Charter Commission set council pay, which seems a bit wiser than letting them just vote on it themselves. Any new pay grade will still require Council approval. We’ll see if anything actually comes of this and revisit it if and when that debate starts up.
Time-permitting, I’ll be back with some comments on precinct-by-precinct results in the near future. Stay tuned.