DFL candidate Mark Munger loosened probation requirements for felon later convicted of murder

Democrat Mark Munger is running against Republican incumbent Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar in District 3B.

Democrat Mark Munger is running against Republican Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar in District 3B. (Photo: Mark Munger for Minnesota House)

This article, focusing on the race between Mark Munger and Natalie Zeleznikar, is a part of a series called “Swing-District Spotlight” in which Alpha News examines competitive state legislative seats across Minnesota.

In 2022, Republican Natalie Zeleznikar defeated incumbent Democrat Mary Murphy by just 33 votes in the race for District 3B of the Minnesota House of Representatives. Murphy, a longtime public school teacher, had served in the Minnesota House for 46 years.

A former nursing home administrator, Rep. Zeleznikar is now attempting to win reelection to a second term. District 3B of the Minnesota House lies within northern Minnesota’s St. Louis County, and includes Hermantown, Two Harbors, Rice Lake, Proctor, Lakewood Township, Canosia Township and others.

Running against Rep. Zeleznikar is Democrat Mark Munger, a former district court judge with decades of experience in the judicial system. In addition to his legal work, Munger is an author who operates the Cloquet River Press.

Alpha News reached out to both candidates to ask about their views, their candidacy, and why they believe they should represent the people of District 3B.

Zeleznikar responded to Alpha News’ questions; Munger did not.

In the 2023-2024 legislative session, Democrats in St. Paul attempted to make Minnesota a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants, supported several gun control bills, tried to place the Equal Rights Amendment on the ballot, and legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy with no restrictions.

Given his efforts to join Democrats in St. Paul, Munger was asked where he stands on these key issues; no answer.

Additionally, Alpha News asked Munger about a Duluth News Tribune story which documents a case Munger handled several years ago as a judge in Minnesota’s Sixth Judicial District.

According to the Duluth News Tribune story, William James Holisky II, a known criminal with a violent history, violated the terms of his probation in 2015. Subsequently, the Tribune story says, then-Judge Munger actually removed Holisky from supervised probation and placed him on unsupervised probation. This meant Holisky would not be required to regularly check-in with law enforcement or participate in a domestic abuse intervention program.

“Less than four months later, authorities say, Holisky fatally stabbed Lisa Jean Isham inside her Lincoln Park home,” the article says.

Holisky murdered Isham in May of 2015. According to the Duluth News Tribune, Holisky was set to be under supervised probation through October 2016 until Munger changed the terms of Holisky’s probation and shortened its length by several months to January 2016.

Holisky eventually pled guilty and was convicted of second-degree murder. Munger was the judge in those proceedings and sentenced Holisky to 30 years in prison.

Alpha News asked Munger why he removed Holisky from supervised probation. As previously stated, Munger did not answer any questions for this story.

Conversely, Rep. Zeleznikar discussed her work, her opponent, the Democrats in St. Paul, and what needs to happen in Minnesota.

Speaking about her opponent, Rep. Zeleznikar said Munger should not represent District 3B because he is “endorsed by the same Democrat progressive party that endorsed Ilhan Omar.” The first-term lawmaker said Democrats are attempting to push sanctuary state policies, and the residents of her district and the rest of Minnesota do not want that.

Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar/Minnesota House of Representatives

Zeleznikar warned that a sanctuary state law would be a top priority for Democrats in 2025.

Further, Rep. Zeleznikar said politicians who campaigned as moderate Democrats in 2022 did not vote as moderates during the most recent legislative session.

“I see no reason to believe my opponent would operate any differently,” Zeleznikar told Alpha News.

A resident of Fredenberg Township, Zeleznikar also spoke about what she would do if the Republicans win a majority in the Minnesota House. Among her top three priorities, Rep. Zeleznikar said she would like to eliminate the tax on Social Security “once and for all for everyone.” Additionally, the first-term lawmaker said she wants to expand affordable childcare for families and ensure schools receive necessary funding.

Speaking with Alpha News, Zeleznikar touted her work on behalf of Greater Minnesota during the 2023-24 legislative session. In addition to her efforts on a variety of workforce topics, Rep. Zeleznikar was appointed to serve on two task forces, one focused on emergency medical services (EMS) and another focused on support for aging Minnesotans.

“This opportunity has allowed me to work on issues facing the state for aging Minnesotans and the need to have an ambulance arrive regardless of your zip code,” said Rep. Zeleznikar.

The Democrats currently have a 70-64 majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives. As such, Republicans would need to pick up at least four additional seats to win control of the chamber and break up the Democrats’ control of state government.

Given the razor-thin, 33-vote margin from 2022, District 3B will undoubtedly be one of the most closely watched seats on election night.

The 2024 general election is set for Nov. 5.


Luke Sprinkel

Luke Sprinkel previously worked as a Legislative Assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He grew up as a Missionary Kid (MK) living in England, Thailand, Tanzania, and the Middle East. Luke graduated from Regent University in 2018.