Elizabeth “Lyz” Jaakola and Dennis Painter will face off in the general election after gaining the most votes in the primary held Tuesday, Aug. 11.
Jaakola finished first with 217 votes, or more than 49% of the 441 votes cast. She was happy with the result and thanked her supporters for coming out to vote despite the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, but she also recognized the race is not over.
“I’m not getting overconfident, that’s for sure,” Jaakola said. “This is really my first time sincerely venturing into politics, so I’m trying to dot all the i’s and cross all my t’s and do my best listening to people in the ward and finding out what are the issues of concern. I’m sure Dennis is as well — he’s a motivated guy.”
Painter edged former Mayor Dave Hallback by 14 votes, winning nearly 27%, or 119 votes. He said the turnout for Ward 5 in a primary was “amazing.”
“It was great to see that many people come out and vote — even with the current conditions with COVID and everything else, it was awesome to see that many people participate,” Painter said. "I want to extend a thank you to everyone that voted for me. And, yeah, I have a lot of work to do leading into November, but I’m willing to do it and look forward to the opportunity.”
Hallback garnered 105 votes in the primary, or about 24% of the total. He said he believes he still has a lot to contribute to Cloquet and was “a little bit surprised by the outcome.”
“It is what it is,” he said. “There’s no shame in running and losing. I wish the very best to the other two candidates. They both have very good qualities to do a good job if elected.”
While Jaakola easily advanced to the primary, the race to see who she would face in the general election was too close to call until all primary ballots had been counted.
Carlton County Auditor Kathy Kortuem said her office received about 200 mail-in ballots in the days after the election, but only 11 were in Ward 5. Jaakola received seven additional votes, with Painter and Hallback splitting the remainder.
Korteum said the county received 6,036 requests for absentee ballots and more than 3,400 were returned and accepted. The return rate of approximately 57% was higher than past primary elections, but lower than the rate for the 2018 general election.
Korteum believes many people requested ballots for the primary and general elections, but only intended to vote in the general. In 2018, 84% of 4,844 absentee ballots requested in the general election were returned.