The DFL retained control of a key northeast Minnesota legislative seat Tuesday

Carly Melin, 25, an attorney and Hibbing resident, captured nearly 60 percent of the vote, easily defeating her nearest rival, Republican Paul Jacobson, a juvenile corrections counselor and licensed minister.

Independence candidate Cynthia Kafut-Hagen trailed in the race for the seat previously held by former House Majority Leader Tony Sertich.

Three months ago, Sertich had handily won reelection, doubling Jacobson's vote total. But Sertich resigned his seat after being named last month by new DFL Gov. Mark Dayton as commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

With the surprising defeat in November of longtime Democratic Congressman Jim Oberstar, DFLers poured a noticeable effort into a campaign for what normally would be counted as a safe Iron Range seat for the party.

Minnesota U.S. Sen. Al Franken publicly endorsed Melin's campaign, as did Dayton.

"They are concerned about keeping a seat up here, and after the [Oberstar loss] ... we run like we're 10 points behind," Jason Metsa, Melin's campaign manager, said in describing the campaign's sense of urgency.