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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Lislegard won’t seek re-election

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 5/30/24

REGIONAL—Rep. Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora, announced this week that he won’t seek re-election to the Legislature this fall to devote more attention to his family. Lislegard had represented …

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Lislegard won’t seek re-election


REGIONAL—Rep. Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora, announced this week that he won’t seek re-election to the Legislature this fall to devote more attention to his family.
Lislegard had represented District 7B since 2019 and had served as the mayor of Aurora prior to that.
Lislegard, in a statement, said it was a difficult decision. “Fighting for the Range is at the core of who I am and what I have done for the past 20 years of my life,” he said. “But there is a cost to giving so much of your life to something that you are passionate about. When faced with decisions that impact the people you love the most, one’s priorities must be directed to where needed most. At this point in my life my priority needs to be my family.”
Lislegard will continue to serve as a lawmaker until his replacement is elected in Novermber.
In his three terms at the Legislature, Lislegard proved an able lawmaker who brought a number of major benefits to the district. Just this session, he helped shepherd a tax bill through the House that brought $80 million in bonding projects to the Iron Range even as the Legislature failed to approve a statewide bonding bill. He also pushed for an increase in the taconite homestead credit, which will save Iron Range taxpayers about $250 a year on their property taxes.
“This is the first time in 26 years that the taconite tax property tax credit was increased,” Lislegard noted. “You live here, mine the ore here, and you deserve part of the benefit from taconite taxes. That’s why I advocated for this money to reduce your property taxes.”
Capital spending authorized in the tax bill this year includes $3.3 million to renovate emergency room facilities in Virginia and to create the region’s first behavioral mental health emergency center. “My reform of the 340B drug program will mean over $25 million each year invested in our health care hospitals and clinics in northeast Minnesota,” Lislegard added.
A major loss
With the significant political turnover experienced in the region in the past few years, Lislegard had become the senior lawmaker from the East Range and his experience is going to be missed. “The Iron Range is losing another legislative giant,” said freshman state Sen. Grant Hauschild, DFL-Hermantown. “But this time he’s the last remaining true titan of the Range. It will be difficult not having him by my side at the capital because we could tag team our efforts together. Dave showed me how to not take no for an answer and simply to get the job done.”
Freshman Rep. Roger Skraba said he was shocked to hear of Lislegard’s decision, but added: “I respect his decision and wish him and his family all the good will possible.”
During his first two terms, Lislegard learned the job under the tutelage of the late Sen. David Tomassoni and former Sen. Tom Bakk, who both represented the Iron Range for more than 20 years and knew the ins and outs of the Legislature like few others. With other northeastern Minnesota lawmakers all in their first terms, Lislegard’s experience was especially critical. Hauschild said the remaining lawmakers, along with Lislegard’s eventual replacement, will need to redouble their efforts. “That’s my biggest takeaway from his announcement, we have to keep fighting to ensure the Iron Range is strong,” he added.
Possible GOP pickup?
Lislegard had continued a long tradition of DFL electoral dominance on the East Range, but the changing political calculus in the region has put that long record in doubt and makes the district a prime pick-up possibility for the GOP. Even with his experience and connections, Lislegard faced a tough re-election battle in 2022 against Republican Matt Norri, winning by a narrow 51-49 percent.
Lislegard’s surprise announcement that he would not seek re-election came surprisingly late, which could further complicate the DFL’s chances to lay the groundwork for a strong contender. Filings for state House and Senate seats opened May 21 and close June 4, meaning potential DFL candidates will have had less than ten days to decide to enter the contest.
Meanwhile, the endorsed GOP candidate, Cal Warwas announced his candidacy for the 7B seat last October. Warwas is a miner and a 27-year member of the United Steelworkers union. He’s serving his second term as a supervisor in Clinton Township and serves on the board of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools.