Aurora Mayor Dave Lislegard will seek the DFL nomination in the Minnesota House 6B race, triggering an August primary election for the seat.
Lislegard, 45, is the second candidate to seek the party’s nod, joining Shaun Hainey, who announced his candidacy earlier this year and earned an uncontested endorsement. Republican Skeeter Tomczak is also running in House 6B.
A labor Democrat, Lislegard said it would be an honor to represent the Iron Range in the Legislature and help create healthy communities.
“I’m very proud of the Iron Range’s heritage, the people and the pride we once had that was so strong,” he said in an interview Saturday. “I want to bring that back. I want to fight for the people of the Iron Range.”
Lislegard has recently become a prominent voice for the region in the copper-nickel and wild rice sulfate debates through his roles with the Laurentian Chamber of Commerce, Jobs for Minnesotans and the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools, which he currently serves as president.
If new mining projects follow the process and meet the standards laid out by the state, he said, they should be permitted by the agencies. That includes PolyMet, which has undergone about two decades of state and federal review, and is expected to receive permits this year.
“PolyMet has met or exceeded all permitting rules and regulations,” Lislegard said. “It’s way past time to get the mine producing and workers cashing paychecks.”
A fourth-generation Iron Ranger, Lislegard said his labor background allows him to uniquely understand Range families and their way of life in the mining industry. He worked at LTV in Hoyt Lakes as a member of the Steelworker Local 4108 before being laid off in 2001 when the plant closed. Lislegard also worked as a member of Local 1097.
His wife of 23 years, Lisa, works for the Minnesota Department of Transportation and is a member of AFSCME. His eldest daughter, Hailey, is a heavy equipment operator with Local 49 Operating Engineers.
After being laid off from LTV, he spent two years at Mesabi Community College and attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth, graduating with a degree in political science and communications. He currently works in business relations at Lakehead Constructors with offices on the Range and in Superior, Wis.
“I am a pro-labor, pro-business, pro-jobs DFLer,” Lislegard said in a press release announcing his candidacy. “I have lived the difficult roller-coaster economy of the Range that has resulted in loss of jobs, population, security for workers and their families, and opportunities for our young people.”
Hainey launched his candidacy in March after current House 6B Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, joined the 8th Congressional District race following Congressman Rick Nolan’s retirement announcement. Metsa was first elected in 2012, replacing Tom Rukavina.
The August primary will be the second election in a year’s time for Lislegard, who was elected as mayor of Aurora in 2017. But the House 6B race represented an opportunity to make a broader difference for the Range, he said.
“In politics, timing is everything, and when an opportunity presents itself, you need to seize the moment,” he said Saturday. “I have a passion for the Range and my home, and I want to make a difference.”
Filing for the House 6B race opens May 22 and ends June 5. Lislegard and Hainey will run in the Aug. 14 primary for the DFL nomination. The general election is Nov. 6.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated the incorrect date for the general election.