PALISADE — Delegates for Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party began online voting last week to choose the candidate who will run against Republican incumbent Pete Stauber in Congressional District 8.

The district covers the northeast portion of the state including Duluth. With much emphasis often placed on the amount of funds a campaign can raise, Gaylene Spolarich, one of three candidates up for the DFL endorsement, has chosen to take a different approach.

A former Palisade city council member, city clerk, and current coordinator for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Early Childhood Education Program, Spolarich is inspiring voters with her lifetime of public service and commitment to listening to the voices of the underrepresented.

Despite the difficulties of campaigning during a pandemic, Spolarich is undeterred in connecting personally with her would-be constituents. Plans for community suppers and travel to meet voters across the district have been replaced by phone calls and online meetings. She has been recording and sharing video conversations with people best positioned to offer solutions to the problems faced by all too many voters, including small farmers, survivors of the opioid crisis, small business owners, and healthcare workers.

“The decisions I make are based on listening to people who vote and make our economy run, but don’t have enough money left over at the end of the day to donate to a politician,” Spolarich has said.

“Too often, the people representing us in this area have sought our votes with their own agenda in mind. Our need for jobs and access to healthcare isn’t getting solved that way,” Spolarich continued. “Too many people are left out of the process. Those problems get solved by listening to what matters to them.”

If she were elected to represent District 8, Spolarich would be only the third Indigenous woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, and the first person who identifies as Indigenous to represent Minnesota at a federal level.

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