Rob Ecklund of International Falls wins DFL primary

Rhonda Silence

When the votes were counted on Tuesday, September 29, Rob Ecklund of International Falls had won the Democratic- Farm-Labor Party primary for Minnesota House 3A. Ecklund won the slot on the general election ballot with 45.80 percent of the vote, or 3,038 votes. Ecklund moves on to the December 8 general election to face Republican Roger Skraba and independent candidate Kelsey Johnson of Gnesen Township.

Ecklund, a Koochiching County commissioner, who works at Boise Paper, had strong support from labor unions and just before the election received a letter of support from Drake Dill, the son of the late Representative David Dill who held the House 3A seat until his untimely death on August 8, 2015. Reached back at work, Ecklund said, “The first thing I’d like to say is we lost a true statesmen with the passing of David. We’ll all miss him. It’s a sad state of affairs to have this election this way.

“And I have to say that without my wife’s support I couldn’t have done it. I have a really good support team behind me,” he said, adding, “Organized Labor really came through for me."

Sawbill Outfitter owner Bill Hansen of Tofte was the second highest vote-getter with 34.84 percent of the primary vote, with 2,311. Hansen was the clear winner in Cook County precincts, but that was not enough to carry him on to the general election.

Eric Johnson of International Falls and Heidi Omerza were neck and neck in the race, with 643 and 641 votes respectively. Johnson claimed 9.66 percent of the vote and Omerza 9.69 percent.

Hansen issued an announcement late Tuesday evening, offering his heartfelt congratulations to Rob Ecklund on his DFL primary victory. “The DFL voters of 3A have made their choice and I respect it. While disappointed, this campaign gave me the chance to get to know Rob Ecklund much better. I’ve been impressed by his progressive views and by his openness to a variety of perspectives as we work towards a better future for our region. He has my full support and endorsement.”

Ecklund also said he was impressed with Hansen’s campaign. “Bill has been a tremendous gentleman,” Ecklund said, adding, “I will rely on him for advice and to keep track of what is happening in that part of the district.”

Hansen also thanked Heidi Omerza and Eric Johnson, “for a campaign that was always cordial and that consistently focused on the issues that are important to the voters of District 3A.”

Reached by phone the day after the primary, Hansen reiterated that he was disappointed, but also grateful to all of the people who supported him in Cook and Lake counties. “I’m really touched and humbled,” said Hansen. “It’s nice to have that respect from neighbors and friends—the feeling is mutual.”

Hansen, who was on his way to visit his new granddaughter in Chicago said he has plans to stay involved. “It would have been fun to have that learning experience. But I’ll still be ‘in the kitchen’ politically,” he said, “I’ll be right back involved with community activities.” In addition to spending time with his grandchild, he said he will go back to playing music and he hoped to go back to offering West End News on WTIP Community Radio.

Roger Skraba, former mayor of Ely, earned 518 votes on the Republican side of the ballot. Skraba issued a statement shortly after the polls closed on Tuesday, saying, “I want to congratulate Rob Ecklund on winning tonight’s DFL primary. I look forward to contrasting my vision of better paying jobs, safer roads and putting an end to wasteful spending with Ecklund’s vision of bigger government, higher taxes and support of the Minneapolis-based leaders in the DFL.”

Ecklund said he was also looking forward to the continued campaign, but first he was heading to the deer shack with his boys for a few days. “Monday we will sit down and talk strategy,” he said.

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