Last Tuesday’s House 3A special election was clearly a referendum for DFL voters in that district on copper/nickel/precious metals mining on the Iron Range.
And support for the PolyMet nonferrous project near Hoyt Lakes cleared that electoral hurdle with ease.
It did so even though anti-copper/nickel forces had several things going for them on Election Day:
• It was a four-candidate contest, with those opposed to the PolyMet venture and other future nonferrous projects on the Iron Range able to unite behind a single person, preservationist Bill Hansen of Tofte.
• There were three candidates — Rob Ecklund of International Falls, who won the DFL nomination on Election night, and Ely City Councilor Heidi Omerza and International Falls businessman Eric Johnson — who split the copper/nickel/precious metals vote.
• There was very little time for campaigning in the special election primary in a district that is larger in size than the state of Maryland. Former DFL Rep. David Dill of Crane Lake died on Aug. 8, and a few weeks later Gov. Mark Dayton called for a Dec. 8 general election and a Sept. 29 primary.
• Hansen had solid name identification in 3A. He had sought the legislative House seat twice before, losing to Dill in 2002 and 2004.
• Voter turnout is historically low in special elections when there is only one race to decide on the ballot.
• House 3A is a district with a hard-core contingent of preservationists who support all the environmental groups that are so against all responsible mining, including copper/nickel/precious metals. And they had their candidate in Hansen, someone who shamefully would have fit right in with a metro liberal DFL anti-mining caucus.
Yet despite all that going for Hansen, Ecklund won an impressive victory of 3,083 to Hansen’s 2,637, with Omerza and Johnson tallying a total of 1,333 votes.
We congratulate the blue collar Boise Cascade worker and Koochiching County commissioner on his victory.
Omerza and Johnson were also strong nonferrous mining supporters, as long as any project meets state and federal environmental rules and regulations, which, of course, will be required before any permits for construction and production can be granted.
Therefore, the 3A DFL vote for copper/nickel/precious metals mining was 4,416; against, 2,637.
That’s an important message from the House 3A district in support of responsible nonferrous mining and the hundreds and thousands of jobs it will create.
A strong majority of 3A DFLers voted to better the area’s struggling economy and help workers, families, schools and communities in a strong show of support for our traditions and way of life.
The election results honored the legacy of former Rep. Dill. And that’s a very good and important thing to have witnessed.