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Ready, set, vote! In the Tuesday primary

(Photo by Naomi Yaeger)

You know a big election is coming up in November. But are you prepared to vote in the Minnesota primary in just a couple days? Tuesday, Aug. 9, to be exact.

"The primary is the first step. They are crucial because they determine who will be on the ballot in November," said Maria Isley, president of the League of Women Voters Duluth.

If you live in eastern Duluth, your primary will only concern the Minnesota Supreme Court Justice. But many in western Duluth will also have a state representative (District 7B) and a county commissioner office (District 3) to consider.

Many people refer to the House District 7B as western Duluth. But it also includes parts of Central Hillside, Kenwood and Duluth Heights as well as Park Point.

To find your polling place and see a sample ballot, visit the Minnesota Secretary of State's pollfinder.

House 7B

Rep. Erik Simonson currently represents House District 7B but is not running for reelection. Instead he is running for the Minnesota Senate District 7. Three candidates are seeking his House office: Democrats Bryan Jensen and Liz Olson and Republican Cody Barringer. Liz Olson is endorsed by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party as well as several labor unions. Jensen is a Piedmont Heights resident. Barringer, a flight instructor at Lake Superior College, does not maintain a web presence for his candidacy.

County Commission District 3

Current District 3 County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg is not running for reelection. Three candidates are seeking that office: Jay Fosle, Beth Olson and Kim McKay.

A pre-primary election forum for District 3 commissioner candidates is 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5  in the Evergreen Senior Center, 59th Ave. W. and Grand Avenue in Spirit Valley. The forum is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters Duluth and the Spirit Valley Days Committee.

"People ignore the county elections, but they have a bigger budget than the City Council," said Gay Trachsel of the League of Women Voters Duluth.

Though it is a non-partisan seat, Beth Olson has the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's endorsement. She is the executive director of the First Witness Child Advocacy Center.

Kim McKay is a taxi driver from the Piedmont Heights. She told the Duluth News Tribune she "worked (her) butt off to get off welfare." This is her second run at the county board. She also has served as chairwoman of the Duluth Commission on Disabilities.

Jay Fosle is a Duluth city councilor and works for the Duluth School District.

As of the Budgeteer's deadline only Olson has a website.

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Natalie Hudson was appointed to office by Gov. Mark Dayton when Justice Alan Page retired in 2015. A Supreme Court justice can hold that position for one year before an election is required.

This is a nonpartisan office. Three candidates are seeking that office: incumbent Justice Natalie Hudson, Michelle MacDonald and Craig Foss (no website available).

Minnesota judicial elections are nonpartisan and judges are not allowed to state their political beliefs. Candidates may talk about their views but are not allowed to say how they would rule on an issue if it became before the court.

"People say, 'It doesn't matter to me.' But it does matter," said Barb Russ, an attorney for Duluth's Volunteer Attorney Program and member of the Duluth City Council. "The Supreme Court supervises the works of all the courts." It also regulates the practice of law in the state. It overseas ethical questions and has the power to take away a law license.

All first-degree murder cases go to the Supreme Court for review. Court cases on taxes, workman's compensation, statutory issues and constitutional questions go to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

On his Minnesota State Bar Association candidate questionnaire, Foss wrote, "I have found since I was laid off in 2012 that the demand for legally blind attorneys is not high. So I decided to see if I could get elected to a job."

Michelle MacDonald ran in 2014 and received the Republican endorsement, but later lost their endorsement.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at