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Primary election set for Tuesday

If early voting is any indicator, next week’s primary election may not be a barnburner in Carlton County. Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9.

Kelly Lampel, chief deputy auditor/treasurer for Carlton County, said the office was prepared for a much higher turnout in advance of the primary, but relatively few people have requested absentee ballots.

“It’s nothing at all compared to 2020,” she said. “But primary elections often have lower turnout, especially during a non-presidential year.”

Still, it’s not too late to vote early. The auditor’s office on the second floor of the Carlton County Courthouse (301 Walnut Ave., Carlton) is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday for early voting. Monday is the last day to request an absentee ballot.

Additionally, residents of any of the 15 precincts with mail-in ballots can choose to vote at the courthouse Tuesday, if they forgot to mail their ballots or simply prefer voting in person. “We are their polling place on Election Day,” Lampel said, adding that anyone worried about mailing their ballot can also drop it off at the courthouse or just vote there Tuesday.

Lampel said voters will be using new voting machines at Carlton County polling places this year, but she doesn’t expect people to notice much of a difference. The machines are made by Election Systems and Software based in Nebraska.

The new machines still use paper ballots and print out a tape with results, and are not connected to the internet. “So there are paper ballots to recount if you need to,” she said.

The machines are already familiar to the auditor’s office, which has used them to count absentee and mail ballots the past two election cycles.

The county will also offer the new omniballot: an off-the-shelf accessible ballot-marking device used in polling locations for voters with disabilities this year.

Local candidates

Expect mostly statewide candidates on the ballot Tuesday, as well as federal candidates for U.S. Representative District 8. Duluth’s Harry Welty is challenging two-time incumbent Pete Stauber, of Hermantown, on the Republican side, while Warba’s John Munter and Duluth’s Jen Schultz are facing off on the DFL ticket to advance to the general election.

Locally, there is really only one contested race: the DFL candidates for Minnesota Senate District 11. John Peura of Moose Lake and Michelle Boyechko of Tamarack are vying to see who will face Republican incumbent Jason Rarick on Nov. 8.

Peura grew up in rural Kettle River as a fifth-generation Carlton County resident. His educational background is behavioral sciences in management, psychology and leadership.

Peura is a member of the Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education and is a substitute teacher for the Barnum and Moose Lake school districts, following others in his extended family as educators. He was also an AFSCME union member.

Michelle Boyechko was born and raised in Duluth, where her father was employed by the BNSF railroad. She graduated from Denfeld High School in 2000, and then went on to Duluth Business University for her associate degree in veterinary technology.

“Now, I am a smallfarmer, raising pigs and cattle and living in Tamarack,” she wrote. “I am the proud mom of two teenagers. My oldest graduated from Cromwell-Wright this year. My youngest was a freshman at the same school.”

Peura said he’s running because he sees dysfunction in politics.

“I believe that the longer an incumbent stays in office, the more likely the special interests take root and do not necessarily address those initial concerns that were affecting the incumbent’s family, industry, or community,” he said.

Boyechko said she was on the fence for a long time about running for office. The catalyst for her action was the combination of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.

“Some politicians are offering only thoughts and prayers,” she said. “Meanwhile, my state Sen. Jason Rarick has actually introduced legislation to further reduce gun regulations.”

Boyechko sat with her two high school students eating breakfast before school one day when she decided to run for state office.

“I swallowed my fear that this right here could be the last time I see one or both of my children,” Boyechko said. “I decided that I couldn’t just sit and hope someone would make the changes that we need.”

Peura said he is also concerned about school safety.

“I support providing our public schools with the resources to meet the daily challenges,” he said. “Students should have a safe learning environment.”

The resources should include mental health services, he added.

“I fully support funding our public schools and not cutting programs or increasing class sizes,” he said.

Minnesota Senate District 11 now includes all of Pine and Carlton, and portions of St. Louis, Kanabec and Chisago counties.

Candidates on the issues:

Q: Are there any particular issues that you would like to address if elected?

Peura: Public safety, education and healthcare. Gun safety is part of education. Gun safety is critical even with the latest federal legislation that was signed into law. Does it go far enough? No. However, I do support the provisions that are part of the “new” federal legislation.

Climate change is attached to each of these key areas. The current policies are achieving the intended goals; however, we can still do better.

Additionally, the district is starting to see an increase in the number of folks who are transitioning to long-term care facilities. Family members are often charged with providing the care without financial support.

Boyechko: I support a person’s right to own guns. My family owns and shoots guns. I do not believe that the Second Amendment gives the right to unrestricted gun ownership. Background checks, waiting periods, liability insurance, gun safety training and red flag laws do not put an undue burden on law-abiding citizens to own guns.

I am an advocate for the LGBTQA+ community. I also stand with communities of color. We must teach about and come to terms with atrocities committed by our country before we can be truly great. I will support legislation and programs that create greater equality.

I want to help farmers get food to local customers. Many laws regulating food safety are aimed at cutting small producers out of the picture. Incentives and programs geared toward land and water conservation can help our farmers build resiliency against severe weather events, such as drought. Let’s grow together to provide opportunities for small businesses and trades.

Q: What are your thoughts on abortion rights in Minnesota?

Peura: I support the woman’s right to choose. That choice should be made between her medical provider and her, not elected or appointed non-medical providers. The 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court case, Doe v. Gomez opinion, confirms this position. Should this be enshrined in statute? The short answer is “yes.”

Boyechko: I am unapologetically pro-abortion. I don’t believe that the government belongs anywhere near a person’s right to make decisions about their body. Abortion is a decision between a pregnant person and her health care professional.

Q: The Legislature failed to pass the bonding bill this year essentially because the two parties can’t seem to work together. How do you think this increasing divide can be addressed?

Peura: Former United States Senator Mike Enzi had the best approach: he applied the 80/20 rule. He stated, “80 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing.” Find that 80 percent of common ground and work within that framework. Do not get lost in the remaining 20 percent. Another way to address the divide: I would encourage voters to stop “extending contracts” with ineffective legislators. My opinion is that the best approach is a balancing of the 80/20 rule and new legislators to assist in reducing the logjam.

Boyechko: I am under no illusion that I am going to change the whole system but I’m going to fight to pass equitable legislation and improve the lives of Minnesotans. I think a lot of legislators are voting along party lines. We need to get things done for the people. It is hard to compromise. I would compromise where I can, but I am not giving up fundamental rights. If people are not willing to compromise, let the public know what’s going on. People don’t have a clear idea what goes into making laws. Hold the people that are not working together accountable.

Q: You are one of the DFL candidates for the state senate seat. Why should voters choose you to face off against the Republican incumbent Jason Rarick?

Peura: I am committed to service and ready to answer the call to action and to leverage my professional capital to stand up for the district residents. I stand ready to replace a politician that has served in both chambers with someone who has boots on the ground. Elected office is not to be a career or side hustle. Let us return to a citizen’s legislature that embraces the change. I will remember that I work for you, not me, and not the State of Minnesota. It is for those in the senate district that I represent.

Boyechko: I have a very strong personality. I am not going to be someone who is going to sit on the sidelines. In order to solve the problems, I want to get in contact with those people who are affected. I want to find out what their solutions will be and bring that into the lawmaking process.

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