Drawing of Scrabble tiles to decide deadlocked county election

Scrabble "A" lettered tiles are displayed
Scrabble "A" lettered tiles are displayed.
Thomas Coex / AFP / Getty Images

The drawing of Scrabble letters will decide a tied election for the Cook County Board in the far eastern tip of Minnesota's Arrowhead Monday.

Kristin Wharton and Frank Moe each received 246 votes in the race to represent Cook County's District One.

The county auditor will place two scrabble letters, an A and a Z, in a bag. The candidate drawing the Z wins.

"It's very surreal to think that six months of hard work and a lot of effort and time and money put into the campaign boils down to this," said Wharton a 30-year-old nurse.

Friday on The Daily Circuit: Wharton, Moe discuss race

Moe is a former state legislator who runs a sled dog racing kennel.

"If there was ever any doubt in my life that there's some power greater than myself who's in control, it's been removed now," he said.

Both candidates say they'll ask for a recount after the winner is drawn to ensure the initial tally was accurate.

The election focused primarily on local issues. Both, for example, call for reform of costly planning and zoning regulations. Moe also raised the issue of tax fairness. Revenue from a county-wide sales tax, he said, is spent largely outside his district, in Grand Marais, Lutsen and Tofte. Wharton said she focused her campaign on the cost of living in Cook County. Wages are below the state average, she said, while housing costs are well above the state median.

But towards the end of the campaign "it got kind of rough, surprisingly so," said Moe, when his vocal opposition to proposed copper-nickel mines in northeast Minnesota became an issue. People spread rumors around the district that "if you supported Frank Moe for County Commissioner, then our legislators would pull taconite funding for schools, or for property tax relief," he said.

Wharton said she did hear from a number of people during the campaign who were concerned that Moe's stance on the issue could damage the county's relationship with the Iron Range legislative delegation. "But I don't believe it's an issue that relates to our County Board," she said, "so that's why I never brought it up in the campaign."

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