Tom Rukavina

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Tom Rukavina
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
from the 5A district
In office
January 6, 1987 – January 7, 2013
Preceded by Dominic J. Elioff
Succeeded by Jason Metsa (District 6B)
Personal details
Born (1950-08-23)August 23, 1950
Virginia, Minnesota, U.S.
Died January 7, 2019(2019-01-07) (aged 68)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Political party Democratic–Farmer–Labor
Spouse(s) Jean Rukavina
Children 2
Alma mater Mesabi Range Community and Technical College
University of Minnesota Duluth

Thomas Rukavina (August 23, 1950 – January 7, 2019) was an American politician and a Democratic–Farmer–Labor (DFL) member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1987 to 2013. In 2010 he was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Minnesota, seeking the DFL nomination. He was a St. Louis County commissioner from 2015 to 2018.

Early life

Rukavina was born in Virginia, Minnesota, of Croatian and Italian descent,[1][2] and graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude in political science.[3] He first held elected office in the 1970s on the Virginia school board and the Pike Town Board.[4] Before becoming a full-time legislator, he worked in various positions, including at the Minntac taconite plant, as a logger and a naturalist at the Ironworld Discovery Center in Chisholm, Minnesota, and as an assistant director at Giants Ridge Ski Area.[2]

Minnesota House of Representatives

Rukavina was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives for thirteen terms, serving from 1987 to 2013.[5] He represented District 5A, which included the Mesabi Range in St. Louis County in northeastern Minnesota.[3] In 2012, he announced he would not seek reelection, citing his frustration with the partisan atmosphere at the state Capitol.[2]

Rukavina proposed a bill that would ban the sale of foreign-made American flags in Minnesota.[6] The bill later passed into law.[7]

In 2009, Rukavina opposed allowing the University of Minnesota to sell beer and wine only in premium seats at TCF Bank Stadium.[8] He insisted that the University alter its policy to sell alcohol to all legal drinkers throughout the stadium, including its own students.[8]

2010 gubernatorial campaign

Rukavina speaking in 2009

On July 23, 2009, Rukavina filed paperwork for an exploratory committee for Governor of Minnesota, making his candidacy official in early September at Bayfront Park in Duluth.[9][10] He was later endorsed by Congressman Jim Oberstar.[11] At the DFL state convention he dropped out of the race and endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher.[12]

Personal life

Rukavina was arrested on July 31, 2004 for fourth-degree drunk driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.15.[13] He pleaded guilty to the charge.[14]

Rukavina was married to Jean and the couple had two children.[15] Rukavina's daughter Ida works for U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.[15] He was friends with late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, who was flying to attend the funeral of Rukavina's father when his plane fatally crashed in October 2002.[15]


Rukavina died of leukemia on January 7, 2019 at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis, aged 68.[5]

In response to his death, Governor Tim Walz said: "There's folks who put their life into serving Minnesota, and Tom Rukavina was one of those".[15] U.S. Senator Klobuchar said that: "Rukavina understood the dignity of hard work, and was a force for Iron Range workers and their families".[15] Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison remembered Rukavina as a "friend, public servant, and a fierce defender of working people" on a statement on Twitter.[16]


  1. ^ "Tom Rukavina Croatian-American running for Minnesota governor". Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Myers, John (May 12, 2012). "After 26 years in the Minnesota House, Rukavina says he's retiring". Duluth News Tribune. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Rukavina, Thomas "Tom"". Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  4. ^ "Former state lawmaker, county commissioner Tom Rukavina dead at 68". Duluth News Tribune. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Kraker, Dan (January 7, 2019). "Iron Range politician Tom Rukavina dies". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  6. ^ Stawicki, Elizabeth (February 28, 2007). "Lawmaker proposes ban on foreign-made U.S. flags". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  7. ^ Brunswick, Mark (December 30, 2007). "On Tuesday, all-American flags are law of the land". Star Tribune. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Post, Tim (April 30, 2010). "House expected to take up alcohol rules at U of M stadium". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  9. ^ Hanna, Bill (July 24, 2009). "Rukavina running for governor in 2010". Mesabi Daily News. Retrieved January 7, 2009.
  10. ^ Hanna, Bill (September 7, 2009). "Rukavina makes it official on 2010 run". Mesabi Daily News. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  11. ^ "Oberstar endorses Rukavina for governor". Duluth News Tribune. March 30, 2010. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  12. ^ Davis, Don (April 25, 2010). "Kelliher wins late-night battle for DFL governor nomination". Duluth News Tribune. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  13. ^ "Rep. Rukavina arrested for DUI". WDIO-DT via Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  14. ^ Stassen-Berger, Rachel E. (May 27, 2007). "Their peers forgive, but DWIs haunt lawmakers". Pioneer Press. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  15. ^ a b c d e "Former Rep. Tom Rukavina, served Iron Range for more than a quarter century, dead at 68". Star Tribune. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  16. ^ "Keith Ellison on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved January 7, 2019.

External links

  • Tom Rukavina at Minnesota Legislators Past & Present
  • Project Vote Smart - Rep. Tom Rukavina Profile
  • Follow the Money - Thomas Rukavina Campaign Contributions
  • Rep. Rukavina Campaign Web Site
  • Rukavina for Governor, 2010 web site
Minnesota House of Representatives
Preceded by
Dominic J. Elioff
Member of the House of Representatives
for District 5A

Succeeded by
Jason Metsa
Retrieved from ""
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