Longtime Iron Range union member to run as a Republican against DFLer Dave Lislegard

Cal Warwas says too many votes DFLer Dave Lislegard cast in the state House "advanced an agenda that is way out-of-step with Range values and priorities."

Left: Cal Warwas/Cal Warwas for House; Right: Dave Lislegard/Minnesota House

A third-generation miner and union member from Virginia has said he will run as a Republican to unseat three-term DFLer Dave Lislegard in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Cal Warwas says he wants to represent District 7B at the State Capitol because he believes the “the DFL Trifecta, led by Twin Cities legislators, has advanced an agenda that is way out-of-step with Range values and priorities.”

“As a lifelong Iron Ranger, I have a passion for seeing our people get opportunities to stay here and raise their families, and giving our kids hope for the future and a home on the Range,” Warwas said in a press statement this week announcing his campaign. “I’m deeply concerned about the hard-left turn our state politics have taken, leaving most rural Minnesotans without a voice, especially as it pertains to skyrocketing energy costs, parental and Second Amendment rights, and the increase of taxes and fees everywhere you look.”

A 27-year United Steelworkers union member, Warwas is currently employed by United States Steel Corporation. He’s also a director for the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools Board. He’s also been an active member of county and state township associations. He resides with his wife Maria in Clinton Township (just south of Eveleth) where he serves on the board of supervisors.

Warwas says he plans to be a voice for the mining community at the legislature.

“I will work diligently at the Capitol for all current and new mining projects on the Range,” he said. “Without these, I believe our kids will have to look far from home for a sustainable living; we can, and we must, do better for them.”

Iron Range seat long held by Democrats, now a swing district?

District 7B is one of several legislative seats now considered to be a potential swing district, and pickup for Republicans, heading into the 2024 election cycle. While the seat has been held by a DFLer for well more than three decades, Lislegard won re-election in 2022 over Republican challenger Matt Norri by less than 500 votes.

Lislegard’s legislative record during the 2023 session was a mixed bag of mostly party-line votes for the DFL trifecta, a few votes against his caucus, and a few instances where he just didn’t vote at all on controversial legislation.

Lislegard sits on the House Taxes committee that passed a party-line tax bill that was put together to help pay for a 38 percent increase in the state budget.

He also chairs the House Property Taxes Committee, and sits on the Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy and Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy committees.

Lislegard’s key votes during 2023 session

During his 2022 re-election campaign he was one of five DFL House members who campaigned on or publicly committed to repealing the state tax on Social Security income and then voted against taking up the measure on the floor. All five DFLers, including Lislegard, were on record as having told constituents they supported repealing the Social Security tax and were called out by name on the House floor by House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring.

Democrats eventually passed a scaled down version of the bill, which Lislegard supported, that was means tested by income and left more than half of Minnesotans 65 and older out of receiving that tax cut.

In January, Lislegard joined 68 other Democrats in voting ‘yes’ on legislation many consider to be the most extreme abortion law in the country. The “Protect Reproductive Options Act” grants a “fundamental right” to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, via any method and for any reason, with no age restrictions. Gov. Tim Walz signed it into law before the end of January.

Lislegard did cross party lines on a few controversial pieces of legislation, including his no vote on a new law that mandates Minnesota businesses provide one of the most aggressive paid family and medical leave benefits packages in the nation. He was also the lone DFLer in the House who voted against expansion of Minnesota Care to illegal immigrants and a public safety bill that included two new gun control measures.

There were also a handful of bills that Lislegard did not cast a vote for, including a “trans refuge” bill that passed the House and Senate and was eventually signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz.


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.