REGIONAL— Minnesota’s Eighth District bucked the national trend on Tuesday night, as voters here opted to replace a progressive retiring DFLer, Rick Nolan, with a Republican backed by President …
REGIONAL— Minnesota’s Eighth District bucked the national trend on Tuesday night, as voters here opted to replace a progressive retiring DFLer, Rick Nolan, with a Republican backed by President Donald Trump.
Pete Stauber, a longtime Duluth police officer and current member of the St. Louis County Board, proved the top vote-getter, with 159,388 votes, outpacing former DFL state Rep. Joe Radinovich’s 141,972 votes.
“I know many voters share my optimism for this great state and the greatest nation in the world,” Stauber said in a press release Tuesday night. “We agree that our best days are yet to come. I look to the horizon and see a sunrise and can’t wait for what tomorrow brings.”
Stauber had strong backing from President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, both of whom visited Duluth in recent weeks to stump for Stauber.
Stauber also benefitted from a veritable flood of outside money from conservative groups that blanketed the airwaves and Internet with attack ads against Radinovich, mostly over traffic violations and other youthful indiscretions. As one of only a small handful of districts in the country that the GOP identified as possible pick-ups, GOP-supporting political action committees spent more than $6 million attacking Radinovich.
“We have seen the impact that outside money can have in a race can have,” said Radinovich spokesman Bennett Smith. “It’s not a good impact; it’s not good for our democracy or having faith in the folks elected. We need to hold elected officials accountable to the promises they make.”
Radinvoch, for his part, set a fundraising record for the district in the third quarter, with over $1.25 million raised by non-corporate donors. But it wasn’t enough to fight back against the big outside money.
Neither candidate showed strength on their home turf. Radinovich won handily in St. Louis County, including in Stauber’s hometown of Duluth, running up a nearly 20,000-vote margin county-wide. Radinovich also outpaced Stauber in most precincts on the Iron Range, although results from northern St. Louis County were more mixed. At the same time, Radinovich lost ground on his home turf, failing to crack 40 percent of the vote in Crow Wing County, where he grew up in the former mining town of Crosby. Stauber showed strength throughout the Brainerd lakes region and the southern portion of the district, which now dips all the way into the northern Twin Cities exurbs.
Stauber’s campaign laid out few policy proposals, focusing mostly on the candidate’s support for copper-nickel mining and President Trump. He also went against some GOP leaders in declaring support for protecting Social Security and allowing pre-existing conditions to be covered by health insurance.
Radinovich on the other hand, embraced progressive policies such as support for single-payer healthcare.
A third candidate in the race, Independence Party candidate Ray “Skip” Sandman, garnered four percent of the vote in the race. While his presence may have pulled votes from Radinovich, with whom he was more closely-aligned politically, Sandman was ultimately not a spoiler, since Stauber did win a slim majority, with 50.7 percent of the vote.
As of press time, the Eighth District was the lone district in Minnesota to flip to the GOP. The state’s First District race, between GOP candidate Jim Hagedorn and DFLer Dan Feehan, was too close to call, with a margin of less than half a percent, making a recount possible.
Meanwhile, DFL candidates unseated two Republican house members, Erik Paulsen in the Third District and Jason Lewis in the Second, meaning Minnesota will likely keep its current split of five DFL-controlled congressional seats to three for the GOP. That assumes that Hagedorn retains his roughly 1,500- vote lead in the First District, pending a possible recount.