Roger Reinert announces campaign for Duluth Mayor

people hold signs that read "Reinert for Mayor"
Former DFL state legislator Roger Reinert announced his campaign for Duluth Mayor on Thursday outside the Piedmont Heights Community Club in Duluth.
Dan Kraker | MPR News

Standing in front of dozens of supporters at a community center and hockey rink Thursday, former state legislator Roger Reinert announced his campaign to challenge incumbent Emily Larson to be the next mayor of the city of Duluth.

Reinert, 52, was a Duluth city councilor before being elected to the State House and then the State Senate. He's an active Navy reservist who deployed to Afghanistan for a year in 2018. Now he's an attorney and an adjunct professor at the College of St. Scholastica.

Reinert said he feels like the city has lost its focus on delivering core city services, such as streets, public safety, and parks and libraries.

"I know that that is something I'm able to do, I'm able to set priorities and align resources and hold myself and others accountable,” he said.

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He also criticized the city for failing to plow streets in a timely fashion following recent snowstorms, something he said prevented schools from opening.

“Yes, we have had a lot of snow,” Reinert acknowledged. “But it feels like every year, when we get our first big storm, it's like we've never seen snow before. And it feels like the response we sometimes get as residents is, ‘Deal with it. We're doing the best we can.’”

Two DFL-ers in mayoral race

Both Reinert and Larson are Democrats. Reinert said he intends to seek the DFL endorsement, but added that he plans to run for mayor regardless.

He describes himself as a centrist, business-focused Democrat, who wants to get his hands dirty with the work of government.

“There's another great candidate in this race already, well qualified,” he said, referring to Larson, who announced her bid for a third term last month.

But he said he’s running because the city is “long overdue on a meaningful conversation about the Duluth we are, and the Duluth we want to be.”

Reinert contends Duluth hasn’t had a tightly contested election for mayor since Don Ness defeated Charlie Bell 16 years ago.

Larson won her two elections with 72 and 64 percent shares of the vote. But fewer than 50 percent of voters cast ballots in those elections. Neither were held the same years as state or national elections.

“A tough choice for voters come November is a win for Duluth, and a win for democracy,” Reinert said, adding that he intends to run a positive campaign.

In a statement, Larson said, “Who leads the city matters. How they lead it matters more. Duluth needs a leader focused on solving problems. A leader with good, consistent values and personal relationships, one who has a clear vision for how we move forward together as a community, and a record of effectively getting things done. On these criteria I believe there is a clear choice in this race and I am the better candidate for the job.”

Reinert’s campaign will host a kickoff event Friday evening at Warrior Brewing Company in Duluth at 4:30 p.m.