Republican Pete Stauber to run for Congress in MN-8

(Post updated Monday, July 10)

On Monday, St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber of Hermantown announces a run for Congress in Northeastern Minnesota’s Eighth District. He becomes the first Republican challenger to incumbent U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL-Crosby) for the 2018 cycle.

Pete Stauber

Stauber, a one-time West Duluth hockey star and longtime Duluth police officer, has been a county commissioner since his election in 2012. Prior to that he was a city councilor in Hermantown, a former rural small town that has become a Duluth suburb.

A 23-year law enforcement veteran, Stauber now serves as a commander in the Duluth Police Department and president of the Law Enforcement Labor Services Union, Local 363.

Stauber held a 11:30 a.m. press conference at the Hermantown Public Safety Building at 5105 Maple Grove Road to launch his campaign.

“For many years I have watched Washington, D.C., from the perspective of a Christian, husband, father, small business owner, law enforcement officer, labor union president, city councilor and county commissioner,” said Stauber, 51. “I can no longer sit back and watch as Washington fails to make common sense legislation. That is why, after careful consideration and prayer, I am today announcing my candidacy and will seek the Republican endorsement for the United States Congress in Minnesota’s 8th District for election in 2018.”

Stauber checks a lot of boxes as a Northern Minnesota candidate. A Denfeld hockey star, he captained a national championship team for Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie. Stauber then spent four years in the Detroit Red Wings organization, never quite making the NHL.

Having served only in local offices, Stauber has few controversial votes to his name. His long career in law enforcement will play admirably in many corners.

Minnesota’s 8th District race grows complicated

The political picture in MN-8 features many unanswered questions. Stewart Mills, the GOP nominee in 2014 and 2016, is reportedly considering running again. But with the presence of another strong GOP candidate, he would have to gird for an endorsement fight or primary, not just a rematch with Nolan. It’s possible he’s just waiting to see if the GOP needs a candidate.

On the DFL side, Nolan is riding high after narrowly surviving the pro-Trump wave of 2016. He flirted with a run for governor before deciding against it. Though his statement left a little wiggle room, Nolan all but declared he would seek re-election. As Trump’s poll numbers continue to fall, Democrats now hope to take the House. Nolan would be well positioned if they do.

But it’s not so simple for the incumbent. Nolan has long faced criticism from his left flank. More so now as Nolan stakes out increasingly fervent support for controversial copper-nickel mining projects that promise new jobs in his district.

Meantime, two DFL candidates announced exploratory bids. They include former Cook County Commissioner Sue Hakes of Grand Marais and former FBI counterterrorism analyst Leah Phifer of Isanti. Hakes seemed more focused on running if Nolan ran for governor. However, Phifer is actively touring the 8th District right now gauging interest in a DFL challenger.

In addition, former Green Party candidate Ray “Skip” Sandman of Duluth has announced he plans another run, this time as an independent. Sandman garnered 4.3 percent of the vote in 2014 running to the left of Nolan. A favorite of many environmentally-minded liberals, Sandman could be a major factor in a close race. He’s recovering from emergency heart surgery, however, so his candidacy could change.

In any event, Stauber joins a race that promises a lot of twists and turns in what has become the most contested swing seat in the country.

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