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Harris steps aside in mayoral race

David Harris’ name will appear on the city ballot in November, but the Red Wing mayoral candidate announced in a statement Wednesday that he no longer plans to continue with the race after candidate Sean Dowse racked up more than 71 percent of the primary election votes.

“Avoiding an unnecessary runoff in November will help Sean to prepare for his new role,” Harris said in a letter to the Republican Eagle. “In acknowledging defeat I also recognize Sean as a good friend as well as a capable leader, and I would urge those who supported me to get behind him.”

Despite announcing his withdrawal, City Clerk Kathy Johnson said voters will still have the option to check Harris’ name on the Nov. 8 ballot.

“The only time a candidate can withdraw is within two days of filing,” she said.

Dowse said he had hoped to continue competing for city government with his friend and fellow mayoral candidate.

“My reaction was and is disappointment,” Dowse said. “Red Wing voters choose two candidates to compete in the general election. The voters deserve the opportunity to hear from both candidates and to make their choice based on open debate.”

Among Harris’ primary concerns during his campaign was making Red Wing a more attractive, liveable and friendly place for young people, families and people of color moving into the area. A former surgeon, Harris spent many years traveling and working with people in poor regions of the world. Through this work, he said he and the volunteers he led on these trips gained a heightened awareness and concern for disadvantaged people.

Although Harris plans to halt his campaign efforts, he said he will continue to pursue solutions to the issues he discussed by continuing his friendship with Dowse and influencing his opponent’s awareness of these concerns moving forward.

“I’ll keep talking with him,” Harris said. “We’re so good at taking care of us old people, but we don’t have things like low-income housing that’s available for young people for rent or purchase. I do think if this town is going to stay vital, it needs to figure out ways to draw in young people. My first thought was that we should have a college here again.”

Dowse said he shares Harris’ concerns for Red Wing’s younger population.

“For me, two of my top priorities address exactly that concern: the lack of housing for low-and middle-income families and the need to improve our natural and cultural resources,” Dowse said. “Young people and families need houses in their price range to have a place to call home. Additional cultural and natural amenities including education resources are especially critical to that group.”

Dowse said he will proceed with his campaign as planned by continuing to visit the homes of Red Wing residents and participate in any forums or speaking opportunities leading up to the general election.

At 82, Harris doubts he will apply for another public office in the future, but said there are a number of things community members can do to work toward solutions to these issues, starting with keeping an open mind.

“Don’t be afraid of what’s strange,” he said. “Try to welcome and learn about what’s new, strange and different. To me, that’s a major problem. People are timid and afraid to take on a new problem.”