DULUTH – After five visits from presidential candidates and their surrogates in about two months, the city was left with a $115,000 bill as northern Minnesota remains a prize eyed by both campaigns in their race to capture the state's 10 electoral votes.
Both President Donald Trump and Joe Biden stopped in Duluth in the last month to woo voters. Since July, Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. have also hosted rallies in town, and Ivanka Trump toured a local factory and store to promote the president's worker education and training program.
A city spokesperson said about $38,000 of police overtime expenses tied to the visits will be funded by a federal grant that usually covers staffing costs for large events like Grandma's Marathon, which was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said while hosting candidates creates a lot of work for the city, it gives locals an opportunity to see what a national campaign looks and sounds like.
"This really, for me, is part of the cost of being a city that matters, that's on the radar of democracy," she said. "I don't really see it as a blessing or a curse."
Larson said Duluth will not ask the campaigns to reimburse its costs, which were mostly tied to security for the events. The Trump campaign previously threatened to sue the city of Minneapolis when officials tried to pass on an estimated $530,000 bill to the president for costs associated with his Target Center rally last fall.
At almost $52,000, Pence's August trip to speak at Duluth's port was the most expensive of this year's visits to the city. Trump's recent rally at the Duluth airport cost about $40,000, and Biden's stops at a fire station and the city's waterfront in September cost roughly $12,000.
Duluth officials said they were expecting more campaign visits ahead of the Nov. 3 election, though they are unsure if those trips will happen due to the spread of COVID-19. Less than two days after his Duluth rally, Trump announced he tested positive for the virus, prompting a statement from the city lamenting that "the campaign chose not to comply with state guidelines" for social distancing and mask-wearing.
St. Louis County health officials urged those who attended Trump's Duluth rally to quarantine and seek tests. On Monday, the county said two individuals who reported attending the event tested positive for the virus.