Lee wins DFL endorsement in special election for state Senate seat

Michelle Lee has won the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement for an open state Senate seat in east-central Minnesota.

DFL party members from Senate District 11 gathered in Barnum on Saturday to weigh an endorsement ahead of Tuesday's primary in a special election to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Tony Lourey.

Lee, a former longtime Duluth TV news anchor, missed the 60-percent threshold required for a endorsement by just one vote on the first ballot.

At that point, fellow DFL candidate Stu Lourey — Tony's son — conceded the endorsement to Lee. More than 150 people cast votes at the endorsing convention. 

Both DFL candidates will appear on Tuesday's primary ballot in the district that includes Pine and Carlton counties, as well as portions of St. Louis and Kanabec counties.

The winner will face Republican state Rep. Jason Rarick in the Feb. 5 special election. John Birrenbach of the Legal Marijuana Now party also is running.

The seat opened when Gov. Tim Walz named Tony Lourey to be state human services commissioner. 

Linda Loons, chair of Senate District 11 for the DFL, told MPR News on Saturday that while the party members endorsed Lee, they also agreed to endorse whichever candidate wins on Tuesday and advances to the special election.

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