Voters are having their say today in the 12 precincts deciding on a replacement for Rep. Pete Stauber on the St. Louis County Board.
The special election to fill the vacancy in the 5th District sees labor organizer Keith Musolf and Hermantown Mayor Wayne Boucher vie in what has been a mostly low-key race.
Boucher said he wasn't biting his nails — yet. Polls close at 8 p.m.
"I've done just about everything I can do," Boucher said. "I tried to make a few calls to friends to get out the vote, but other than that I'm just letting it happen."
Musolf was pounding on doors after polls opened early Tuesday.
“I’m sprinting to the finish line,” Musolf said, “hoping to get the last couple hundred (votes).”
A bloc of 200 votes could swing the special election for a commissioner's seat which opened after Stauber was elected to Congress last November.
Boucher and Musolf were separated by a couple dozen votes when they emerged from a little-noticed five-person primary in May — one that yielded a paltry 6 percent turnout from among the district's 19,265 registered voters.
Turnout wasn’t trending so sparsely by midafternoon on Tuesday.
“The lines have been pretty consistent,” city of Hermantown spokesman Joe Wicklund said about voting at city hall at 5105 Maple Grove Road. “We’re expecting greater turnout than we saw in May. It might not be double, but it will be greater than the 7-8 percent we had the first time around.”
Voters in Hermantown, Proctor, the city of Rice Lake and Brevator, Canosia, Duluth, Gnesen, Lakewood, Midway and Solway townships are represented in the 5th District.
Boucher is a retired Hermantown police officer who began his political career on the Hermantown City Council in 2000. Musolf, a union organizer with Iron Workers Local 512 in Hermantown, is a political newcomer.
The St. Louis County Board is a non-partisan board, meaning candidates bear no political affiliations. But both candidates in the 5th District race came with telling endorsements — Boucher’s from the commerce sector and Musolf with endorsements from labor.
One candidate, Boucher, appealed to reason by talking about plans to grow the tax base and ease the tax burden on families. The other, Musolf, appealed to working-class values by talking about creating more child care and healing addiction to help people back on their feet.
Boucher summarized the race well late last week by saying, “It’s going to be very hard to predict. The people that want someone in this seat are going to get what they want if they show up to vote.”
Musolf or Boucher will fill out the remainder of Stauber’s term through Jan. 4, 2021. The 5th District seat will be up for election again in November 2020.
Annual salary for a St. Louis County commissioner is $63,648.70. The new commissioner will be sworn in soon at a date and location of his choosing. He can choose a judge or county elected official to administer the oath. In the past, some have had a judge administer the oath prior to their first board meeting. Others have been sworn in front of family, friends or even civics classes, said county spokeswoman Dana Kazel.
The next County Board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 3 at the county courthouse in downtown Duluth.
Should Boucher gain election to the County Board, Hermantown city councilor John Geissler would become the city’s mayor. Wicklund explained that Geissler had been tabbed by the council to be associate mayor during an annual organizational meeting. Following an application and interview process, the Hermantown City Council would select a replacement for Geissler on the council.