Jen McEwen has taken the Minnesota State Senate District 7 Democratic-Farmer-Labor primary race with 73.28% of the vote, while incumbent Erik Simonson picked up 26.72% with 100% of precincts reporting late Tuesday night.
McEwen made a statement to her supporters via Facebook Live at 10 p.m. "I just wanted to say thank you so much to all the people who have joined the coalition of this campaign," McEwen said. "This campaign represents so much work by so many people and organizations."
Simonson filed for a primary election after McEwen received the DFL party endorsement following a virtual convention in May in which McEwen received 70% of the vote and Simonson garnered 29%. The convention was held online to accommodate the statewide stay-at-home order and DFL officials said nearly 400 participants voted online or sent mail-in ballots.
Senate District 7 includes most of Duluth and has been held by Simonson since 2017. He's a retired Duluth firefighter who has also served as assistant chief. He's served as a two-term state representative before being elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2016. Simonson did not return the News Tribune's call for comment Tuesday night, but tweeted about his loss Wednesday morning.
"I want to thank Duluth for the incredible opportunity to serve in the Minnesota legislature over the past eight years," Simonson said. "It has been an honor and I’m proud of the work we accomplished. I’m committed to ensuring that over the next few months we continue to serve with integrity."
I want to thank Duluth for the incredible opportunity to serve in the Minnesota legislature over the past eight years. It has been an honor and I’m proud of the work we accomplished. I’m committed to ensuring that over the next few months we continue to serve with integrity.
I want to thank Duluth for the incredible opportunity to serve in the Minnesota legislature over the past eight years. It has been an honor and I’m proud of the work we accomplished. I’m committed to ensuring that over the next few months we continue to serve with integrity.— Erik Simonson (@ErikSimonson) August 12, 2020
McEwen is a plaintiff’s attorney at Falsani, Balmer, Peterson & Balmer in Duluth, representing workers with disability claims against insurance companies, and has experience as a public defender. She also serves as board president of the Damiano Center.
At the polls, voters had contrasting views.
Chris Sid, 49, of the Norton Park neighborhood in West Duluth, said Simonson was the one individual on Tuesday's ballot he was really vying for.
“He’s very pro-labor and he’s proven himself to be formidable as far as challenging a vast number of issues we as workers like to see challenged,” said Sid, citing public safety concerns for workers.
As a Duluth firefighter, Sid has worked with Simonson, who previously served in various ranks for the Duluth Fire Department.
Noah Anderson, 19, of West Duluth, was most excited to vote for the U.S. Senate and State Senate races. Because of her promise to invest in a clean energy future, Anderson voted for McEwen.
“I care about clean energy and more money for Americans, less sending it overseas and sending it to military bases,” Anderson said.
McEwen will face Donna Bergstrom in the general election in November. Bergstrom is making her second run for the seat after losing the 2016 general election to Simonson.
“Obviously, Duluth DFLers were looking for a change, and they have voted accordingly, electing as their nominee a progressive in the mold of Bernie Sanders," Bergstrom said Tuesday evening. "For those who were looking for a different outcome, I invite you to join my campaign as I work to restore some semblance of balance between the appropriate role of government in our daily lives and exercise of the personal freedoms most of us have held dear."
Bergstrom is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps who most recently ran for lieutenant governor with gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson in 2018. The two lost to DFL Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.
News Tribune reporter Andee Erickson contributed to this story.
This story was updated at 10 a.m. Aug. 12 with reaction from Sen. Erik Simonson. It was originally posted at 10:44 p.m. Aug. 11.