Cloquet’s Ward 5 race too close to call

With absentee ballots still being counted, newcomer Dennis Painter held a slim lead over former Mayor Dave Hallback to decide who will advance to the general election.

Judy Vukelich (left) helps Nate Kern register to vote during the primary election Tuesday, Aug. 11, at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Cloquet. (Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal)

With votes still being counted in the primary election Tuesday, Aug. 11, for Cloquet’s Ward 5 City Council seat, Elizabeth “Lyz” Jaakola will likely advance to the general election.

Absentee and mail ballots are still coming in, but Jaakola was polling far ahead of opponents Dennis Painter and Dave Hallback. Jaakola received 210 votes or almost 49% of the total reported Tuesday night.

Jaakola, Elizabeth.jpg
Elizabeth "Lyz" Jaakola

Painter was clinging to a slim lead over former Cloquet Mayor Dave Hallback. Painter received 117 votes and Hallback had 103.


Painter, Dennis.jpg
Dennis Painter

With absentee ballots expected to continue coming in over the next few days, the race could change and Hallback could overtake Painter.

Dave Hallback.jpg
Dave Hallback

Jaakola said she wanted to wait for all votes to be counted before celebrating a victory.

“I think a lot of people may have opted for mail-in due to COVID,” she said in a text message.

Similarly, Painter said he wanted to wait for official results before making any comment on the race.


Election judges wore masks for more than 14 hours and erected clear plastic barriers so polls could open across Carlton County, but it was “pretty quiet” in Cloquet’s Ward 5 precincts, according to Vicki Oberstar, one of the head election judges.

As of about 6 p.m., less than 200 people had voted at the Our Redeemer Lutheran Church precinct in Ward 5, and 57 had voted at the Fond du Lac Reservation Head Start building.

However, many votes in Ward 5 and throughout the county absentee ballots. Carlton County Auditor Kathy Korteum said the county had sent out 6,036 absentee and mail ballots this year, an increase of more than 3,400 over the 2018 primary in Carlton County.

Korteum noted the county added four mail ballot precincts since 2018, which accounted for approximately 1,600 more mail ballots this year. As of earlier in the day Tuesday, the auditor’s office had accepted 3,242 absentee or mail ballots and more could come in over the next few days.

Korteum said she wouldn’t have statistics regarding how many absentee and mail ballots were cast from Cloquet’s Ward 5 until after all the votes were tallied later in the week.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
What To Read Next
Get Local


Must Reads