REGIONAL- Former DFL state Rep. Joe Radinovich and St. Louis County Commissioner Peter Stauber will face off in the November election for the Eighth District Congressional seat currently held by Rick …
REGIONAL- Former DFL state Rep. Joe Radinovich and St. Louis County Commissioner Peter Stauber will face off in the November election for the Eighth District Congressional seat currently held by Rick Nolan.
Both men emerged the winners from Tuesday’s primary— Stauber in a blowout over former Duluth School Board member Harry Welty and Radinovich with a clear plurality in a hotly-contested five-way race.
Stauber’s win was no surprise, as Republicans have rallied round his well-funded effort to flip the seat held by the DFL for the past six years. Stauber, who has tied himself closely to Donald Trump, has already garnered campaign visits from both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in support of his candidacy, and he won with just under 90 percent of the vote.
On the DFL side, Radinovich won with 44 percent of the vote, drawing voting strength from across the district, and particularly on his home turf in the Brainerd lakes area, where he consistently won large majorities in the five-candidate field.
He also did well on the Mesabi Iron Range, handily winning in Hibbing, and running a strong second in Duluth to former KBJR anchor Michelle Lee. Radinovich won St. Louis County as a whole, with 36.7 percent to Lee’s 33.3 percent.
“I’m humbled by the outpouring of support from people across the district,” said Radinovich in a statement that took note of his Iron Range roots. “I value hard work. I won’t stop fighting for the values we share, like access to affordable healthcare, a good education and a good-paying job.”
Lee, who had taken a strong stand against copper-nickel mining in northeastern Minnesota, performed well in some areas that would be affected by the proposed mining. She won a strong plurality in the Ely area, even edging Radinovich by two votes within the city limits of Ely. In Stony River Township, in Lake County, where the proposed Twin Metals mine would be built, Lee won 74 percent of the vote. She won 60 percent of the vote in neighboring Cook County, where opposition to copper-nickel mining is also strong. By contrast, Lee won just 10 percent of the vote in Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes, where residents strongly back copper-nickel mining.
Lee wasn’t the only candidate to voice concerns over copper-nickel mining. North Branch Mayor Kirsten Kennedy had also begun to voice similar concerns and she did surprisingly well, garnering 12 percent of the vote despite little money and a part-time campaign schedule. Soren Sorenson, a relatively little-known candidate, also strongly opposed copper-nickel mining.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the relatively weak performance of state Rep. Jason Metsa, of Virginia, who finished a distant third with just under 13 percent of the vote.
Metsa had mounted a well-funded campaign and won key endorsements from a number of labor unions, including the steelworkers. But Metsa showed only modest strength in his home district and performed poorly outside the East Range.
Tuesday’s results portend what is likely to be a bruising contest in a race that both parties believe could determine control of the U.S. House. Stauber has garnered an enormous campaign war chest, having raised $960,000 as of July 25, the last reporting period for the Federal Elections Commission. Radinovich had topped the DFL field, having reported $333,000 raised as of the filing deadline.
But given the stakes in the race, outside money is likely to dwarf the spending by the campaigns themselves, which will almost certainly make the Eighth District contest one of the most expensive in the nation this election cycle. That spending is likely to show up on television screens, in mailboxes, on radio, and in newspapers over the next few months. So buckle up… it could be a bumpy ride to Nov. 6.