State Sen. David Tomassoni announces ALS diagnosis

Sen. Tomassoni listened to a question.
Sen. David Tomassoni, center, listens to a question from a fellow senator during discussion of a jobs and energy bill on June 12, 2015 during a Legislative special session at the State Office Building in St. Paul.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News 2015

Updated: July 19, 12:16 p.m. | Posted: July 17, 8:45 p.m.

Longtime state Sen. David Tomassoni of Chisholm, Minn., says he has Lou Gehrig's disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.

Tomassoni made the announcement in a letter to constituents published in Saturday's Mesabi Tribune.

ALS is a progressive disease that attacks nerve cells that control muscles. Tomassoni said he was diagnosed a while ago, and felt the effects of the disease through this year's legislative session.

"There is no sugar coating it — this is a tough disease, and I will feel the effects of it in my speech, my movement, and my life," he wrote. "Initially, I decided to not let anyone know about it but dealing with it upfront and becoming an advocate seems to be the right direction to go. ...

"I intend to look at each day as the best day of the rest of our lives and I’m going to live with this disease. Further, I am going to continue representing you to the best of my abilities like I have always tried to do in elected office."

Tomassoni, 68, was first elected to the state House in 1992. He was elected to the Senate in 2000. The longtime Democrat is now serving as an independent and is Senate president pro tem after briefly serving as the senate president prior to the start of the 2021 regular session.

News of Tomassoni’s diagnosis prompted expressions of support from legislative colleagues.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka called Tomassoni "one of the most beloved members of the Senate and it is nothing short of a shock to learn of his ALS diagnosis. I ask everyone to keep David and Charlotte, and their family, in your prayers. I offer my encouragement to David and his family, and just to know today the whole Senate is fighting alongside you."

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent called Tomassoni a "valued friend" and said she was saddened by the news.

"I have admired his deep commitment to public service over the years and his desire to improve the lives of the people of Minnesota. It is no surprise to me that he plans to use his time and platform to be an advocate for ALS research and continue serving his constituents in a job that he loves," Kent wrote. "I send heartfelt good wishes to him, and his family, and they begin to navigate this new road ahead."

Correction (July 19, 2021): An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Sen. David Tomassoni’s current position in the Senate. The article has been updated.

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