Former Walz admin staffer files as DFLer for Iron Range swing seat in state House

Lorrie Janatopoulos filed hours before the deadline for the open House 7B seat after Dave Lislegard's exit.

Lorrie Janatopoulos filed Tuesday to run as the DFL candidate for House District 7B. Cal Warwas received the Republican endorsement in the race.

An Eveleth woman with a connection to the inner circle of Gov. Tim Walz is vying to help the DFL hang onto an Iron Range seat in the state legislature that it’s in jeopardy of losing this November.

Lorrie Janatopoulos, a former program director inside the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, filed Tuesday to run as the DFL candidate for House District 7B, just hours before the deadline — and a little more than a week since DFL incumbent Dave Lislegard announced he would not seek a fourth term representing much of the Iron Range in the state House. Currently the DFL holds a 70-64 advantage over Republicans in the House.

“My local roots and firsthand knowledge of our region’s needs uniquely position me to address critical issues such as workforce development, education, and natural resource management,” Janatopoulos said in a statement on her campaign website.

She was hired in 2019 to lead CareerForce, a division of DEED that focuses on helping unemployed Minnesotans find work. Janatopoulos was tapped for that role by then-DEED Commissioner Steve Grove, a longtime political confidante of Gov. Walz. Janatopoulos also campaigned for President Joe Biden on the Iron Range in 2020.

Janatopoulos enters the race seven months after longtime Iron Range mining union member Cal Warwas announced he would seek the Republican endorsement to unseat Lislegard. Warwas officially filed for the House 7B seat on May 23.

Warwas said he entered the race to represent the Iron Range in St. Paul last November because “the DFL Trifecta, led by Twin Cities legislators, has advanced an agenda that is way out-of-step with Range values and priorities.” Since then he has been campaigning hard in a House district that is expected to be one of the most competitive in the state. According to campaign finance reports, Warwas raised nearly $20,000 in the final eight weeks of 2023. Lislegard had raised about $43,000 for his re-election campaign over the course of 2023.

Following Lislegard’s announced exit from the race late last month, Warwas, a 28-year veteran in the mining industry, pledged he will continue to advocate for Iron Range residents.

“I got into this race because the DFL Trifecta has consistently denied the voice of rural MN to be heard through the force of their majority,” he said.

Warwas received the GOP endorsement earlier this year but will face a primary challenger in Matt Matasich, who filed on May 31. Matasich ran unsuccessful campaigns for legislature in 2016 and St. Louis County Board in 2022.


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.