REGIONAL— Former state Rep. Joe Radinovich and former KBJR news anchor Michelle Lee are the early leaders in the race for the DFL nomination for Congress in the Eighth District. That’s according …
REGIONAL— Former state Rep. Joe Radinovich and former KBJR news anchor Michelle Lee are the early leaders in the race for the DFL nomination for Congress in the Eighth District. That’s according to recent polling conducted by Victoria Research and Consulting for the Radinovich campaign.
The firm, based in Maryland, has worked in Minnesota’s Eighth District since first hired by the late Jim Oberstar in 1992. This year, the company interviewed 400 likely DFL primary voters in the Eighth District from May 12-17. Of the five DFLers in the race, Lee had the highest name recognition at 39 percent, while Radinovich was second at 30 percent. Fewer than one-in-four likely primary voters had heard of state Rep. Jason Metsa or North Branch Mayor Kristen Hagen Kennedy. The poll did not include DFL activist Soren Sorenson, of Bemidji, who was a late entrant to the race.
According to the poll, Radinovich and Lee had nearly identical support, at 17 percent for Radinovich and 16 percent for Lee, a difference well within the poll’s 4.9 percent margin of error. Metsa had nine percent support while Kennedy was at six percent.
The survey considered the candidates support within the district’s two major media markets, Duluth and the Twin Cities. Lee had a clear lead in the Duluth market, with 24 percent support, while Radinovich was second at 18 percent. Metsa finished third with 15 percent support while Kennedy had the backing of just four percent of those polled.
Radinovich holds a clear lead, however, in the southern part of the district, with 17 percent support. Kennedy was in second place at nine percent, while Lee finished third at seven percent. Metsa came in at just two percent support.
The survey found that Congressman Rick Nolan remains popular among DFLers across the district, with 72 percent offering a favorable view, with only 13 percent expressing an unfavorable view.
Nolan announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election to Congress. He announced last week that he has joined Attorney General Lori Swanson as her running mate in her bid for the DFL gubernatorial nomination.
The poll of likely primary voters suggests that Radinovich, who served as Nolan’s campaign manager in 2016, has benefitted from his close ties to the congressman as well as his stint as a state representative. Radinovich also demonstrated broad support among party activists, finishing a close second to Leah Phifer in the endorsement battle at the DFL Eighth District convention in April. Phifer subsequently dropped out of the race after Radinovich was successful in blocking her endorsement.
In a statement, Radinovich called the poll results a promising start and said his support across the district suggests that voters are identifying with his “unifying message.”
“But we know the work has just begun. We’re going to continue to work hard to earn the support of Eighth District voters by wearing out the soles of our shoes, meeting with folks to hear about the issues most important to them, and sharing our vision for a better future.”
Lee, who is new to political campaigning, has struggled at times to attract the support of party activists, but her years of exposure as a news anchor have clearly given her strength within the much broader primary electorate. Lee’s campaign issued a press statement touting the poll results.
"Our campaign has been a clear leader in advocating for families throughout the district," said Lee. "People understand that I'll not waver in my support for universal healthcare as a right for all, a clean, safe environment, access to free higher education, support for family farms in the face of devastating tariffs, and funding for rural infrastructure and development.”
All of the candidates are vying for support ahead of the Aug. 14 primary, which will decide the party’s nominee for the November general election. The winner of the DFL primary will take on the winner of the Republican primary between St. Louis County Commissioner Peter Stauber and community activist and former Duluth School Board member Harry Welty.