Politics and Government

Two Harbors voters overwhelmingly back recall of mayor

A yellow lawn sign supporting a recall on Two Harbors mayor Chris Swanson
A sign in the yard of a Two Harbors home on Aug. 6 urges voters to recall Mayor Chris Swanson.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Residents of Two Harbors, Minn., voted overwhelmingly this week to recall the city’s embattled mayor.

More than 86 percent of voters on Tuesday voted “yes” on the ballot question, “Shall Mayor Christopher Swanson be recalled?” The tally was 1,149 for, and 180 against.

Swanson has been a lightning rod in the North Shore city. He first won the mayor's office in 2016, and ran unopposed in 2020. But he's also become an outspoken supporter of digital currency, endorsed Donald Trump's re-election and promoted a plan to build an underwater hotel in Lake Superior.

Some residents raised questions about possible conflicts of interest between Swanson's business dealings and his role as mayor.

Two people stand by a podium.
Two Harbors Mayor Chris Swanson, with his wife Rebecca, speaking at a news conference in the Two Harbors city council chambers on June 1.
Dan Kraker | MPR News file

In March the Two Harbors city attorney issued a memorandum of opinion concluding Swanson used his official position as mayor “for personal benefit or business interests.”

Swanson has denied any wrongdoing, and he rebuffed two requests from the city council to resign earlier this year — saying in June that he was a “visionary leader” focused on moving the city forward.

Cynthia Kosiak, one of the organizers of the recall effort, told MPR News’ Morning Edition that she feels that rather than being divisive, the recall was a “great community growth opportunity.”

Kosiak said the ongoing controversy encouraged more people to attend city meetings, whether in-person or online.

“I think it’s done a lot of good for the community. I’m just hoping that we can keep the people engaged and keep them concerned and paying attention to what goes on in the city,” she said.

Swanson issued a statement to Duluth TV stations KBJR and CBS3 after the successful recall, saying in part that he's “grateful for all that we have learned and that has been accomplished over the past five and a half years.”

The Duluth News Tribune reported that the Two Harbors City Council president will take over the mayor's duties until a special election can fill the post.

Kosiak told MPR News on Wednesday that she knew of “three or four” people who might be interested in running for mayor.

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