On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

Why one Minnesota county voted Republican for the first time since 1928

Share story

A claw picks up cut logs.
A loss of logging and mining jobs left voters in Itasca Country wanting "change" this election.
John Enger | MPR News

What's going on in Itasca County? The reliably Democratic working-class county voted for Barack Obama twice, yet flipped dramatically for Republican Donald Trump in last week's election. 

Until Trump's victory there, Herbert Hoover was the last Republican to earn a majority of the votes in Itasca Country. 

It's a pattern seen this election across Minnesota's Iron Range.

In Hibbing, the heart of the Range, Trump narrowly edged out Democrat Hillary Clinton for president. Area voters also went with the GOP on two local Minnesota House races, turning out five-term DFL Rep. Tom Anzelc and four-term Rep. John Persell.

Why did Trump win Itasca County?

"The way of life that folks have in rural Minnesota has been under attack," said Gary Cerkvenik, a former DFL lobbyist. 

"We live in an area that's heavily dependent on logging, on mining, and when you have a situation like KeeTac, a major taconite plant in Itasca County which was shutdown primarily as a result of foreign imports of steel.

"When you have a paper mill in Grand Rapids is substantially below where it was 20 years ago in terms of employment. When the new taconite plant at Essar went into bankruptcy. ... You have this cascading economic impact for people who work with their hands," in the mines and in the woods he added. 

Cerkvenik and Minnesota State Senator-elect Justin Eichorn discussed changes to the economy, social welfare, education and the general mood of residents in Minnesota's Trump country with MPR News host Tom Weber. 

Use the player above for the full conversation.