Ben DeNucci's Priorities for MN Senate District 7

Move Mining Forward

Strong Schools

Healthy Communities

Community Safety

Protect Freedom

Move Mining Forward

I’m a fifth-generation Iron Ranger. I come from a mining family. Both my grandfathers worked at National Steel as did my dad before he became a schoolteacher. I’m proud to be from mining country where our ore has helped produce tanks and ships and helped win two World Wars. We’ve been responsibly mining here for over 140 years, and we’ve done so while being great stewards of our environment. 

Keeping the mining industry strong is essential to our local economy. For this industry to continue to drive our local economy, companies must move towards the mining of the future by feeding new electric arc furnaces with a value-added product made here on the Range.

Electric arc furnaces produce “green steel,” which is better for our environment with lower carbon emissions. Using modern technology, steel can be produced on the Iron Range at a substantially lower cost. I have pushed for steelmaking on the Range during my time as Mayor and County Commissioner. No other candidate has the experience I do when it comes to mining.

Priorities in this Area

Keep Mines Open

I will fight against the boom-bust cycle of idling mines, particularly when the corporations who own them continue making record profits. I'll work to end threats to HibTac – Cleveland Cliffs and US Steel can swap land to extend life at both mines, and I'll use my experience and influence in the legislature to get this done.

Lead on Non-Ferrous Metals

I am a proponent of PolyMet and Twin Metals. Cell phones, wind turbines, and electric cars require precious metals. We can power America's 21st Century economy with the Northland's abundant resources. It is unethical to push environmental concerns to foreign countries that lack child labor laws, strict environmental permitting & safety standards, or worker safety protections.

Mining Advocacy

The Talon Metals Tamarack project in Aitkin County, which has card check neutrality with the United Steelworkers, will provide nickel concentrate to power the electric cars of tomorrow. I will work to stop judicial activism and lawsuits against mining projects even after they pass our proven permitting system, and sponsor legislation to fast-track future mines like Talon Metals.

Strong Schools

Nashwauk-Keewatin was home to the oldest school in the state. At over 100 years old, it was time for the school to be replaced. The community also did not have any community spaces, such as a senior center, boys and girls club, or wellness center. I decided to do something about it.

Local leaders and I worked hard to form a new partnership between the county, the school, and the Grand Rapids School District to address this issue.

The school board hired a construction management team. I organized local leaders to help find land for the new school. I coordinated meetings with the United States Steel in Nashwauk and secured a donation of a 40-acre parcel for the school site.

But we also needed funds for the project. We passed a referendum to take advantage of the state aid that our area receives, and we needed funds from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Bureau (IRRRB) to keep the tax burden on our community low.

So, I organized a number of meetings with State Legislators and IRRRB and we obtained $18 million in funding. In addition, I made a proposal to the Itasca County Board for $1 million in County funds for the project which was approved by my fellow Commissioners. The referendum passed not only for the school, but also for the community space.

Priorities in this Area

Fair Share for Northland Schools

The $9 billion state surplus should be used to increase student support services and educational service provider wages. The surplus is an opportunity to recruit and retain top-tier teachers, support special education programs, reduce classroom sizes, and provide mental health counselors.

Increase Bonding

The oldest schools in the State are on the Iron Range and this needs to be addressed through bonding. Now is the time to invest in these facilities, not only to improve student outcomes but also recruit and retain teachers.

Industrial Arts

We have a dire need for interested students to enter trades. The Iron Range is proud to have some of the best career and technical education training programs, and I will work to expand school-based programs and initiatives like 218TRADES so young people can secure good paying jobs in the Northland.

Universal Pre-K

I support opportunities for universal pre-k taught by licensed teachers so our little learners are ready for kindergarten.

Local Jobs

Minnesota Correctional Facility-Togo’s (MCF Togo) work on recidivism is phenomenal. It’s a program that not only shouldn’t be cut, but should be expanded. In 2020 I got word that the facility was going to close because of budget cuts, which meant 60 local people were faced with losing their income and potentially moving to find new jobs.

When I heard this, I got in my car and drove straight to the facility. I sat down with the director and talked about what we could do. We started a letter writing campaign addressing the governor’s office and our representatives in the legislature. We started a phone tree, calling senators and representatives. Finally, we organized a rally where all of our legislators, the commissioner of the Department of Corrections, a congressman, and unions spoke. The rally, televised by the media, was an overwhelming success. At the end of the day, the legislature passed a supplemental budget that kept the facility open and those jobs here on the Range.

Collective bargaining improves the lives of working people and consumers alike. We are living in a period of time where Right to Work threatens the continued prosperity under collective bargaining. As a County Commissioner, I’ve worked to institute Project Labor Agreements on Itasca County projects so workers retain the benefit of working on projects close to home, and ensuring our local economies benefit as well.

I will always stand in solidarity with labor because being pro-union is pro-job. 

Priorities in this Area

Union Support

I support card-check and employer neutrality, competitive prevailing wage standards, and legislation that requires Project Labor Agreements for any state-funded construction projects.

Stand Against Right to Work

Union labor built our Northland way of life. I will always fight to prevent legislation or ballot initiatives that aim to impose Right to Work laws on our workforce.

Fair Practices

I believe in expanding unions to non-organized sectors and workplaces. I will provide oversight, ensure stiff penalties for employers who interfere in workers' rights, fully fund the Public Employment Relations Board, and fight against misclassifying workers.

Stand in Solidarity

I will walk picket lines and amplify worker actions demanding strong contracts and safe conditions.

Healthy Communities

In 2020, I obtained a contract with CEDA (Community Economic Development Associates) for Itasca County. 

IEDC (Itasca Economic Development Corporation) was operating with a board comprised of people from Grand Rapids. There was no one from my district on the board, yet the name of the corporation included Itasca. The board also did not have women or minority inclusion. I didn’t feel as though that was a true representation of the area.

I felt compelled to do something, so I met with CEDA and got a contract in place. I went to the county board and lobbied my commissioners; my message was, “my district is not represented by the IEDC. We’d like to take the money we’re using to fund IEDC and instead fund a contract with CEDA. This will give the small communities the support they need.”

The county board approved the contract. CEDA has since brought hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment to our communities. Now we have more diverse representation of people from throughout the County on the board.

Priorities in this Area

Cut Taxes

In 2022, for the fourth year in a row, I got a 0% levy increase passed in Itasca County. I will sponsor legislation to eliminate taxes on social security so seniors can afford retirement.

Build the Infrastructure We Need

We have a dire shortage of affordable housing and must build more homes. We need to make the right capital investments, like finishing the Highway 169 Cross-Range Expressway, replacing aging wastewater infrastructure, fully building out high-speed broadband internet, and creating good-paying union jobs in the process.

Advance Tourism

I will leverage the Iron Range's scenic beauty and resources for outdoor recreation and tourism by developing hiking, biking, ATV, and snowmobiling trails. I will sponsor legislation that fights the spread of chronic wasting disease and keeps deer hunting safe and sustainable.

Support Families

Minnesotans need a paid family and medical leave system, and earned safe and sick time so no one is faced with losing their job when caring for a loved one.

Community Safety

I’m a volunteer firefighter and first responder—something that runs in my family. My Aunt Sue was the first female firefighter in the city of Keewatin and my grandfather Robert was a captain with the Keewatin volunteer fire department. It’s been a very rewarding experience as a first responder to support the EMTs on calls and support community members in some of their greatest times of need.

As a county commissioner, I’ve been a supporter of increasing funding for local ambulance services on the Iron Range and have been successful in doing so.

Around the district, I hear over and over how local police chiefs make do, settle for less, and rely on one-time grants for funding. Our law enforcement know how to do community policing right, and they deserve a Senator who will get them the resources they need to serve us safely.

Priorities in this Area

Support Law Enforcement

We must fully fund the police to fight gun crime and prevent violence. Local agencies are struggling to make ends meet and should not have to make decisions on whether to upgrade equipment or pay fair wages.

Fund EMS

I will advocate for increased funding for EMS, particularly rural ambulance services. We must keep these lifesaving services viable in every part of the Northland.

Fair Wages

I will fight for paying police officers, EMTs, and EMRs a fair wage in order to recruit and retain these valuable public servants.

Protect Freedom

From safe abortion access to 2nd Amendment firearm rights, I will support Minnesotan’s constitutional protections – all of them.

What’s at stake in this election is the freedom to make private healthcare decisions. I believe reproductive decisions should be made by women themselves. My opponent is on record advocating against abortion in all instances, even rape and incest, and wants to stop talking about it.

In Minnesota, women have a constitutional right to abortion. What we have learned since the Supreme Court’s dangerous Dobbs decision and have seen play out in many other states is that my opponent and his party will stop at nothing to erode that right. If they take control of the State Senate, we know they will seek a veto in the doctor’s office.

We can’t afford politicians who pick and choose which rights to support like they are mere talking points.

Priorities in this Area

Protect Medical Freedom

I will keep government out of the doctor's office and ensure women maintain the right to seek confidential reproductive care.

Eliminate Undue Burdens

Seeking healthcare should never forfeit constitutional rights. Medical cannabis patients currently lose their rights to possess firearms; I will work with the Department of Health to lobby for an exemption from the federal government so patients can fill prescriptions without losing rights.

Address Culture

Nearly 80% of firearm deaths in Minnesota are caused by suicide. I will work for greater safe storage education and resources. Access to mental health care is particularly lacking in Greater Minnesota.