REGIONAL- North Country voters are sending two veteran DFL legislators back to St. Paul in January after District 3A Rep. Rob Ecklund and District 3 Sen. Tom Bakk fended off strong challenges from …
REGIONAL- North Country voters are sending two veteran DFL legislators back to St. Paul in January after District 3A Rep. Rob Ecklund and District 3 Sen. Tom Bakk fended off strong challenges from Republican opponents in Tuesday’s election.
Ecklund’s bid for a fourth term in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday was the closest race, as Republican challenger Thomas Manninen garnered 11,367 votes to Ecklund’s 12,540, a 52.4 to 45.1-percent edge for the incumbent.
Ecklund’s clearest advantage was in Cook County, where he outpolled Manninen 2,544-1,152 while winning all 13 precincts. The nearly 1,400-vote cushion readily offset Manninen’s edge in Koochiching County, where the challenger topped Ecklund by 839 votes while winning 16 of 22 precincts. The Koochiching County results were the biggest shock of the night. Ecklund, a former Koochiching County Commissioner from International Falls, has found strong support in his home territory in prior elections. “I clearly have some work to do close to home,” said Ecklund. “Maybe I’ve been concentrating too much on other parts of the district.”
Ecklund faced a young and well-spoken opponent in Manninen, who hails from Littlefork, also in Koochiching County. He has had little difficulty winning re-election since he was elected in a 2015 special election to fill the seat formerly held by the late David Dill.
Ecklund also won, by narrow margins, in both St. Louis and Lake counties.
Bakk had a relatively easier fight on his way to a sixth term as District 3 Senator, piling up roughly 5,000 more votes than Republican challenger Christopher Hogan in claiming a 26,641-21,242 win (55.2 percent to 44.6 percent).
Koochiching County was the only area in which Hogan outperformed Bakk at the polls, with the former Senate majority and minority leader holding decisive edges in Lake, Cook, and St. Louis counties.
Cook native Bakk has been a fixture in the state Legislature since 1995, when he was elected District 6A representative. He was first elected to the Senate in 2002 and has served twice as the DFL minority leader and once as majority leader. He was replaced as minority leader by Sen. Susan Kent, of Woodbury, last February.