HIBBING — Kim (Kotonias) McLaughlin has officially made it a three way race for the Senate District 7 seat.
The Hibbing resident, who lost her bid to represent the DFL in the race to Itasca County Commissioner Ben DeNucci by 41 votes during the August primary, announced Sunday that she would still be seeking election — this time as an Independent and through a write-in campaign.
“Since August 9, your voices have been heard loud and clear. The Northland is ready for change. I am not running as a Democrat. I am not running as a Republican. I am running as an independent, hard-working, Northlander; a fresh choice, a common sense voice for all,” she said via a news release first published on her Facebook page Sunday afternoon and then emailed to media sources early Monday Morning.
McLaughlin, a certified public accountant and a current member of the Hibbing School Board, will challenge the Democratic Party endorsed DeNucci and the Republican party endorsed Rob Farnsworth, of Hibbing.
The general election is Nov. 8. Early voting will begin on Sept. 23.
All three candidates are vying to fill former Sen. David Tomassoni’s seat in St. Paul, which was Senate District 6 but due to redistricting in 2022 was expanded to the west to include much of Itasca and Aitkin Counties and was renamed Senate District 7.
Tomassoni, who announced his retirement in February after more than 30 years in public office, died in August — just over a year after announcing that he had been diagnosed with ALS.
McLaughlin noted in her press release that her campaign believes “everyone should have a seat at the table and a voice that is heard.”
“We deserve to have a State Senator who truly represents us. This means standing up and putting the people of the Northland first, before politics and partisanship. As of today, I am the only candidate in this Senate race who has proven that she will do just that,” McLaughlin said in her news release. “This is our time to say ‘no more’ to the extreme politics and partisanship that are dividing us where we ought to be united. We must break free of the political tactics that are stagnating our region. It’s time to put people first; to stop looking left vs. right, red vs. blue. By writing in Kim McLaughlin for MN Senate 7 on November 8, we are voting to move forward together.”
DeNucci — who won the primary, 4,003 to 3,962 (a final tally that left McLaughlin one vote shy of a publicly funded recount) said by email Monday that McLaughlin’s announcement was “incredibly disappointing news.”
"After losing a primary, opting against a recount, and failing to overturn the results of the election in court, Kim joins Chad Walsh in launching a doomed write-in campaign that will further divide us at a time when we need to come together,” DeNucci said. “I have been campaigning to fund law enforcement and our first responders, defend labor rights, and make sure our schools get their fair share of state resources. I’m also fighting to make sure the late Senator Tomassoni is not succeeded by an extreme, anti-choice candidate at a time when reproductive rights are under attack all across the country. Whether she realizes it or not, Kim’s actions will benefit an extreme candidate and lend further credence to the big lie that our local elections and volunteer poll-workers are somehow compromised. I urge her to reconsider. In the meantime, I will get back to the task at hand: Working as hard as I can to serve the people of the Northland and these communities that raised me."
Reached by email Monday for comment about the announcement, Farnsworth said, “No matter how many Democrats are in the race, I'm the only candidate running to represent our northland values at the Capitol."
McLaughlin’s announcement comes less than a week after a Hibbing woman’s Notice of Contest alleging election law violations during the August primary was dismissed in Itasca County Court.
Erin L. Ningen originally filed the Notice of Contest on Aug. 22 (and paid the filing fee on Aug. 25) in Ninth District Court in Itasca County alleging “deliberate, serious, and material violations of Minnesota Election Law,” in Keewatin during the Aug. 9 primary.
In the filing, Ningen asked the court to “make the appropriate determinations and declarations according to the facts and law, including setting aside the 257 in-person votes cast and 256 in-person votes counted at the Keewatin polling place on Aug. 9, 2022.”