2022-08-12 13:08:15 –
David Tommasoni, a Chisholm native who played professional hockey in Italy before serving 30 years in the Capitol on behalf of Minnesota’s Iron Range interests, died Thursday. he was 69 years old.
Thomasoni, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in June 2020, is embarking on a long battle with the disease, according to statements by Senator Tom Buck and Thomasoni’s longtime legislative assistant, Laura Buck. He died at 10:00 pm.
“Everyone will miss him terribly,” they wrote in an email to senators and staff.
Thomasoni was a beloved and social figure in the Minnesota State Capitol, briefly served as Democratic Senate Speaker in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, and tirelessly championed the mining business important to his region. During his last few weeks in St. Paul, he introduced legislation that successfully channeled tens of millions of dollars into ALS research.
“His selflessness to advocate for ALS research didn’t save his life, but it may save the lives of millions who follow in his footsteps,” he said at the Capitol. I-Cook’s Tom Bakk, a fellow Iron Ranger who was one of his closest confidants, said Friday. “The legacy he left behind is enormous.”
Before entering politics, Tommasoni was a star hockey defenseman at Chisholm High School and eventually followed his family roots to Italy, where he played professional hockey for 16 years. Tomassoni played for Italy at the 1984 Olympics.
The family eventually brought him back to Chisholm, where he successfully ran for the vacant seat in the state legislature in 1992. Republicans have begun to overthrow parts of northeastern Minnesota.
In 2020, Thomasoni and Buck left the DFL caucuses, citing greater political polarization and an opportunity to chair the committee and better serve the district. Retaining his status as a DFLer, Thomasoni took the gavel on the Senate Higher Education Committee to pass a bipartisan budget bill in 2021 that will spend $3.51 billion on colleges and college campuses statewide. We invested hundreds of millions of dollars directly.
His popularity with members on both sides of the aisle was evident when the Republican Party moved Thomasoni to the position of Senate Speaker temporarily in 2020. The move was intended to temporarily protect the Republican seat in case Gov. Tim Waltz appoints his lieutenant governor to the U.S. Senate. That never happened, but Tomassoni still had nearly unanimous support from Congress.
“They say this job doesn’t come with wigs and robes, but if that were the case, I’d definitely wear a wig,” Tomassoni quipped about his balding head at the time. .
He used his brief moment in the spotlight to appeal to bipartisanship in an increasingly polarized era. “We need to work together instead of forming battle lines,” he said, applauding the conference room.
“David was everyone’s friend,” said DFL-Minneapolis Senator Scott Dibble. “He mimics the ability of people in this chamber to seriously debate, passionately debate the issues we represent, to go back to their retired rooms and have a good time, laughing and joking. .”
He was diagnosed with ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” on June 2 of last year, the same day the New York Yankees legend died in 1941.
He is one of several state legislators to be stricken with the disease, including former Granite Falls DFL Senator Gary Kubley and former DFL-Minneapolis State Rep. Richard Jefferson. About 450 people in Minnesota have his ALS, with an average of 2 new cases diagnosed and 2 deaths each week. The disease is fatal and there is no known cure.
Tomassoni had already announced his intention to retire at the end of his term. A new senator representing the district will be elected in his November, so no special session is needed.
As his illness progressed, it became difficult for Thomasoni to speak and move around the Capitol. I helped
He proposed more funding for ALS research, including a one-time $20 million infusion to award research grants and another $5 million program to help caregivers. was there when Walz signed on.
This spring, the Iron Range delegation shelved plans for its annual ranger party, opting instead to host a donation to raise money to fight ALS, at Tomsoni’s insistence.
“If I had to describe him in one word, it would be love,” Republican Stillwater Senator Karin Howsley said Friday. “Heaven just got more fun.”
Staff writer Stephen Montemayor contributed to this report.
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