8th District DFLers walk tightrope on mining as convention nears

DFL candidates (l to r) Leah Phifer, Michelle Lee, Jason Metsa, Kirsten Kennedy and Joe Radinovich after an April 4, 2018 forum in Cloquet. (PHOTO: Jake Janski)

The five Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party candidates for Congress in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District have just eight days until their April 14 endorsing convention. On April 4, the group participated in a DFL-sponsored forum at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet. The UpTake covered the event.

We’ve already established that, barring something truly extraordinary happening, only Leah Phifer and Joe Radinovich have the delegate base to potentially win the DFL endorsement. Jason Metsa and Michelle Lee indicate they will likely proceed to the Aug. 14 DFL primary election. Kirsten Kennedy has said she will honor the endorsement, but lacks significant delegate support. Thus, Kennedy might play an important king- or queen-maker role at the convention.

Metsa telegraphed his primary election strategy by touting his $125,000 fundraising total for the first quarter of 2018 this morning. That’s not a vast amount of money in what will be a multi-million dollar race, but enough to seed a primary run. Other candidate fundraising totals are expected this week as well.

That’s the horse race. The broader issue in this campaign is a pretty compelling story about economic tensions and change.

National Coverage

Last night’s candidates forum came the same day the New York Times featured Minnesota’s Eighth District on their front page. That story failed to mention any of the DFL candidates, except for Republican Pete Stauber. Instead, the Times keyed in on the popularity of President Trump’s steel tariffs in a former Democratic Party stronghold.

From the Mitch Smith story in the NY Times:

“It’s really strange,” said Mayor Bob Vlaisavljevich of Eveleth, a longtime Democrat who in recent years has changed his registration to Republican and decorated his City Hall office with a Trump bumper sticker. “A billionaire from New York is the one saving us.”

Many in northern Minnesota still speak fondly about the Democrats in their own congressional delegation, and plenty have criticisms of the president’s Twitter habit and of Republican attitudes toward labor unions. But there is a broad sense that Mr. Trump has taken up the region’s cause right as the national Democratic Party is frustrating them with environmental regulations they see as unduly burdensome to miners and with calls for stricter limits on guns.

Vlaisavljevich made news in 2016 when he endorsed Trump before the election.

The DFL’s mining conundrum

The story accurately depicts the attitudes I’ve heard from some Iron Rangers, especially those who crossed party lines to vote for Trump last year. However, it falls into the same trap as much national coverage of the Eighth District. This narrative assumes that the declining population of the Iron Range still dictates the outcome. In reality, this is one of the nation’s largest geographical districts. The “reddening” of the Iron Range is one of several factors that influence the region’s politics. Turnout in Duluth and division on the DFL’s left flank were just as responsible for the 2016 outcome.

Nevertheless, we haven’t heard the last of this kind of coverage. The April 4 forum, like the previous forum, made it clear that the only meaningful policy difference among the five candidates is over mining and environmental regulations, a point not lost on the Duluth News Tribune in their front page coverage.

To recap, Metsa backs all mining and has supported Republican-backed environmental deregulations. Radinovich and Kennedy support allowing the existing environmental processes to move forward and broadly support mining. Phifer supports iron mining but opposes the current plans of nonferrous mines because of the lack of up-front financial assurances. And Lee supports iron mining but broadly opposes nonferrous mining due to the environmental risks. It’s pretty much a spectrum of beliefs on the DFL side.

I’ve argued that these differences aren’t all that important in the context of partisan unity on countless other major issues. Nevertheless, mining continues to be the only thing anyone wants to talk about. That appears to be an unmovable fact of this race. As such, the DFL primary will likely be consumed by the issue, depending on the result of the endorsing convention.

The lay of the land

It comes down to one of three outcomes, I think.

  1. The GOP wins the seat with an electorate resembling the 2016 Trump wave, tilting more Range votes their way.
  2. The DFL wins with strong turnout and enthusiasm among their base, overwhelming any GOP gains on the Range.
  3. Or the GOP wins because the left wing of the DFL jumps to the third party candidate.

Of the three, I think the second option is the most likely, but that the first and third add up to slightly better than a 50 percent chance for the GOP. It only shows the contentious nature of being an 8th District Democrat in this political environment.

You can follow my 8th District analysis at my special coverage page. 


  1. Aaron again I appreciate your hope and your faith as you predict a DFL win based on “strong enthusiasm among their base”. I believe that you are correct assuming the party endorses a candidate at the convention. Should the convention be hung, the the base…the real base…the one with the enthusiasm but not multi-nationals, will be short sheeted by money…. again. Should this happen the enthusiasm will fade quickly. The Democratic party lost the faith of many in 2016 by marginalizing those who were highly motivated. They tipped the scale in favor of political clout and money and away from voters. We will know in a week if the 8th power brokers will repeat the mistake and destroy their own coalition. Staubers greatest hope in the age of Trump is a broken opponent.

  2. Kristin Larsen, Vice Chair, says

    It is exciting to have a candidate in Leah Phifer who not only has experience at the national level and a strong history of real employment and a Masters in Public Policy from the Humphrey Institute. We have in Leah a mature, prepared, well educated, youthful candidate who espouses every possible DFL value. I’ve never encountered so intelligent and capable a candidate. I’m hopeful that the talk of coming together materializes and that we do pull together around the best candidate the 8th has seen in years!

  3. Kristin Larsen, DFL Vice Chair, SD3 says

    It is exciting to have a candidate in Leah Phifer who not only has experience at the national level and a strong history of real employment and a Masters in Public Policy from the Humphrey Institute. We have in Leah a mature, prepared, well educated, youthful candidate who espouses every possible DFL value. I’ve never encountered so intelligent and capable a candidate. I’m hopeful that the talk of coming together materializes and that we do pull together around the best candidate the 8th has seen in years!

  4. independant says

    With all due respect I think you have it completely wrong. You many want an anti mining candidate to save the day and win it all for the DFL but that will not happen. If the DFL runs Phifer or Lee the 8th is as good as gone for at least two years. The private sector union members are so sick of being used and abused in the 8th you stand to lose them for a generation. Stauber is an even easier candidate to attract the forgotten blue collar DFLers to the other side than Trump.

  5. I don’t want an anti mining candidate. I want the DFL to acknowledge that there is a rift and seek compromise. MINE BABY! MINE! is not a compromise. A compromise is to admit that the new proposed mining projects are very risky and are dividing our party and dividing our communities.. A compromise is to agree that we cannot win divided. A compromise is to say that we will accept great risks but only slowly and with great care. There is no compromise on the table because on one side there is only MINE! BABY MINE! Sound a bit Republican to you? Me too. This is not an issue that will pass before November and there are more people living outside the range then inside. Unfortunately there is far more money backing… MINE BABY MINE.

  6. Dominick Richardson says

    Well put by Independent, I agree with your points. All in all the DFL of the 8th district is vastly different ideologically from the DFL at the state level…..old school blue collar democrats in the 8th, not so much with the figure heads in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The differences become more apparent with each election cycle.

  7. I hear this a lot. “The good old DFL” was better than what we have now. This always seems like a feeling more than a historical fact. It might help to explain what you mean by that? Perhaps if we talk about specifics we could explore this issue.

    • Ranger47 says

      The DFL hasn’t been “good” for a long time Aaron. They been running on the ole closed fist, fight you, unsafe work conditions, management is evil, protect the misplaced ineffective employees via tenure banner ever since 1890. That lost it’s meaning and worth over 60 years ago. You’re one of them, you’ve managed their elections, you’ve help them get elected….YOU explain what the “good ole DFL” means to you.

    • David Gray says

      Well for one the DFL used to run pro-life candidates.

    • independent says

      The fact that some people equate the process of lifelong civil servants utilizing science and their expert knowledge over a 13 year review period with dozens of public comment periods and millions of dollars expended all before allowing the first shovel in the ground to a no compromise “MINE BABY MINE” attitude should tell you all you need to know. Good luck in the fall with that kind of candidate.

      • Independent…there is only one candidate in the field advocating nailing the barn door shut on Polymet and only one advocating ripping the barn door off at the hinges. There is plenty of room for compromise. Without compromise luck will not help US in November.

        • independant says

          jg, tell me who in the hell could possibly at this stage be seen as advocating “ripping the barn door off the hinges” after 13 years of diligent study and review… Give me a break. Many hide behind claiming we need more of this or that added to the EIS when in reality that is a never ending delay tactic and those same people actually would never be satisfied. That is because these people hate mining and are delusional about where everything in their daily life comes from. Too many are completely disconnected from where their food comes from, where the materials for their house, car, computer, cell phone, office building, etc. come from. Ignorance.

          • Independent…let me help. Nailing the door shut refers to closing the door on all sulfide mining…this would be Lee. Ripping the door off the hinges refers to full on mining, exploration, mineral leasing, fast tracking Twin Metals etc…this would be Metsa. It would also be Nolan if he were still in the race. I have been arguing for a compromise and pointing out that at least two candidates are not calling for the polymet project( 13 years) to be hindered ,they both 100% support iron mining. They do however suggest a more prudent and careful approach to starting future projects until we have some real data… thus the compromise.

          • independant says

            jg, I am not just trying to be rude here but you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. There is no one talking about fast tracking anything. You may have been told that by someone with an agenda but following the existing permitting process is not fast tracking. Do your own homework and don’t take a post on a groups Facebook page as the full story please.

  8. Dominick Richardson says

    Aaron let’s not pretend the DFL of today is the same DFL my grandfather grew up with.
    Name the last pro-life DFL candidate to be nominated for state wide office.
    DFL’ers like my grandfathers generation were pro-life, supporters of gun rights, and put America first….just to name a few examples.
    They were proud Americans first and foremost not citizens of the world.

  9. Dominick Richardson says

    Also if the DFL is the same party it has always been why have the republicans been making steady gains in the region for the last decade? Demographics are still the same, so why the change in voting habits?

    • Thanks for the response. It’s much easier to talk about specific issues.

      First, Bob, you haven’t voted DFL in a century, if you ever did. You appear to be arguing the position that labor unions have been a negative influence on American and Iron Range life. I don’t agree. It’s a huge issue, but broadly speaking the labor movement — yes, standing up to management — is specifically responsible for the middle class prosperity that led to quality education and wages being available to a generation of Iron Rangers. Further, it’s curious that you’d key in on that, as labor is now broadly aligned with company interests across the Range. At least in the primary, labor is mostly backing Metsa on the mining issue.

      David — Thank you for identifying one issue where the DFL has legitimately changed since the 1970s. We have sincere disagreement about this issue. But if the key difference between the “old” DFL and the “new” DFL is, essentially, social issues — well, that shift started a long time ago and is now largely complete. Both parties are largely intolerant of positions other than their platform, and so if social issues are you key issue, you’ve been forced into a box and have been since the 1990s at least. The five DFL candidates in this primary have few, if any, differences on social issues, all safely falling within Democratic Party norms.

      Dominick — Demographics are certainly not the same since the 1970s. We are much older than we used to be, with far more retired households. This is a factor in our political changes, along with the resentments that come from economic decline. But another is the 8th District is no longer dominated by the Range the way it used to be. Population growth in the prosperous southern part of the district also changed things. Economic disparity is higher, too. Where once most on the Range were some version of lower middle class, we’ve now seen a big gap form between those with the quality mining jobs and the ruling class and everyone else. The population has shrunk. This isn’t unique to our area, but it’s a big factor. You also identify the life/choice issue. That’s something that I addressed in David’s comment. As for guns, well, here again we see a national issue that’s been going on a long time. If you absolutely refuse to consider gun safety measures of any kind and view any deviation from that as treason, well, I’m betting you’ve been voting GOP more often than not anyway. The DFLers in this race aren’t completely identical in their positions, but most are open to some kind of gun safety legislation. But their differences are not seemingly a leading factor among DFL voters at this point. It might make a difference in a general election.

      I’m a little disturbed by this notion of “loyal Americans.” What does that mean? Am I not a loyal American? Are you saying that members of one party aren’t “loyal Americans?” That’s a logical fallacy. That’s the kind of emotional statement that’s designed to insult people rather than understand our earnest differences on issues.

  10. Dominick Richardson says

    I stated demographics in the last decade…when Rep Oberstar lost his bid for re election…not demographics since the 1970’s.
    I will concede your point on the size of the eighth district stretching down to the northernmost metro area as also contributing to the Republican gains in the district.

    • I’ve been tracking voting trends since 2000, which is when you start to get easy-to-read online data from the Secretary of State’s office. Starting in 2004 we see a gradual decline in DFL vote percentage in Iron Range cities (say, Hibbing or Virginia) in presidential elections. About 1.5 percent per year. What’s interesting however is that, until very recently, the numbers seemed attributable to fewer total DFL votes. I posited at the time that it was because older DFLers were dying and weren’t being replaced by younger DFLers. I’ve also long believed that the “lost generations” of the 1980s and ’90s — young people who moved away — represented DFL votes that moved to other parts of the state. A lot of them are liberal voters in Duluth and the Twin Cities now. The people who stayed behind are more conservative, often for cultural reasons. This is similar to what happened across rural and Rust Belt America. But it is certainly demographic change. Now, in recent years — just the last four perhaps — something else changed. I’d argue that this gradual demographic change broke through the dam wall in 2016. Weaker unions, less of a sense of community. A lot of people who have been feeling these changes, unable to put a name on it, became very frustrated for a variety of reasons. Because the region is now skewed older, things changed when peer groups decided together that they didn’t like the status quo. But make no mistake, this is part of a long transition that’s been happening since automation changed taconite 40 years ago. The cultural changes that people seem so fixated on have economic roots. I could go on, but you get the idea. I will say that you are right that there has been a more pronounced change in recent years — but it’s not the party that moved, it’s the result of a changing economic and demographic picture in Northern Minnesota.

      • Aaron you hit on something important here when you said ” it’s not the party that moved” perhaps it should have. I think it must. No time like the present.

        • I’ve said on the podcast that I don’t think either major party is truly representing where a lot of people are. The Democratic Party has become an increasingly divided coalition between broad social and cultural progressives — the face of an increasingly diverse America — and remnants of a labor/economic coalition built for an economy that has changed beyond recognition. They’re not speaking to the low wage service workers or displaced workers of America. Not really. Meantime, the GOP has become a party of cultural grievance and fear — social, religious and cultural backlash to change. On economics, pure authoritarian trust in markets that crush the working class. Who’s got solutions? I think they exist, but we argue about “way of life” and increasingly feel like the “other side” are space aliens. I think the Democrats are best positioned to change strategies and achieve success, but I don’t see any signs that they are doing so. New leadership is necessary.

          • Gerald S says

            Aaron, I agree that the DFL is not speaking to displaced workers effectively. However, I disagree with the idea that they are not speaking for low income workers. Specific DFL programs include calls to raise the minimum wage, calls for safe and sick time for all workers, calls for family leave time for all workers, the Medicaid expansion, the MNCare program, and the ACA subsidy program, the CHIP program, programs for universal pre-K, efforts to freeze and lower tuition for vo-tech and four year schools, efforts to increase the availability of grants for post-secondary ed, efforts to increase funding for both pre-K to 12 and higher ed, efforts to create more affordable housing by using money previously earmarked for TIFF programs, efforts to improve chances for unionization among low income workers, women’s health programs, the requirement that obstetric care and reproductive health be a part of the minimal benefits required of all insurance, the requirement that addiction care be part of minimal benefits and the inclusion of addiction care under Medicaid, and so on.

            Displaced workers do benefit from some of these as well. But for a worker who used to earn $35 an hour, had health insurance and a retirement plan but was laid off and who has only a high school degree and no interest in math related skills, the training programs often do not lead anywhere, and successful training often ends with the worker having to move to other markets where jobs requiring the new skills are required. I would, however, guarantee that any and all of the DFL candidates for CD8, or for that matter, DFL candidates for state legislature, governor, and Senate, would be very open to any suggestions in dealing with this extremely difficult problem, one almost guaranteed to get worse as automation continues to replace factory workers, miners, and now likely even truck drivers. The problem is not an unwillingness to address the issue. The problem is, beyond the usual ideas of strengthening education and qualifications which all DFLers subscribe to, no one has any ideas with proven results, or even good ideas to try. Given that we are not going back to 1955, there are a surplus of victims and dearth of solutions for workers displaced by automaton, technology, and outsourcing.

  11. Most Rangers:

    Don’t support open boarders
    Believe having an ID to vote makes sense
    Don’t believe tax dollars should go towards abortions
    Believe America is one of the greatest countries in history…if not the greatest
    Wish to simply watch a sports contest when tuning in, not a political protest
    Believe many people are gaming the welfare system
    Believe in enforcing existing gun laws, not creating ineffective new ones
    Believe there is a lot of waste in government
    See no reason not to offer greater K-12 school choice, public schools have a monopoly
    See the lack of progress in decades of DEM led social programs
    Aren’t concerned if a baker doesn’t want to bake a LGBTQIA cake
    Aren’t interested in what LGBTQIAer’s due in the bedroom, but don’t like it rub in their face
    Believe we are a country and people entering should follow the existing process and enter legally
    Don’t appreciate broad based protests against our police officers
    Believe government policy caused the housing market bubble…and painful crash
    Don’t believe we should spend trillions on trying to control when in rains…or gets cold
    Believe all lives matter, not just black…or white
    Don’t believe in promoting racial strife as many politicians do today
    Believe women and men are paid equally for doing the same job
    Believe our morals have declined due to elimination of biblical based standards
    etc, etc.

    Todays DFL party platform is against or supports the opposing position of most of what’s stated above. That’s what’s changed.

    • Actually, I think these are things you believe and, like usual, you’re projecting these beliefs onto people who agree with some of them. I’m unaware of valid polling that’s established these claims. While I know people who might believe all or even most of these things I have no idea if they belief all of them and I also know many Rangers who don’t believe some of these things. Again, I have no interest in a discussion over broad feelings. We’ve established over the past ten years that we have different feelings on several topics.

      • They’re not feelings Aaron, they’re beliefs. Big difference. And trust your gut in this case. Talk to friends, enemies and neighbors. You can always find a poll that’ll support your beliefs…only to find it was woefully misleading.

  12. Ranger, Aaron said it better but it’s always amazing to read the barmy beliefs your fevered brain cooks up. Of course, it’s a lot easier to hate groups of people and dehumanize them when you make up stories out of whole cloth.
    I agree somewhat with a couple of statements. The GOP gaming the super wealthy/corporate welfare entitlement system is outrageous, giving trillions in tax cuts to those who don’t need it, creating massive debt and we and our children and grandchildren pay for it. This is why we regular, hard-working folks can’t have nice things like good infrastructure, schools, standard of living, etc. in the richest nation in the world. “The poor/middle are too rich and the rich are too poor”.
    Waste in government has never been so obvious aside from perhaps the robber baron era. Instead of draining the swamp, all the grifting snakes slithered their way in, taking over the swamp happily profiting by massive corruption and creating chaos. The arrogance, corruption, greed and incompetence of trump family and White House is stunning and nauseating. They are hemorrhaging our tax dollars away.

  13. To get back to the topic of the 2018 CD8 election, I think that there are several points worth considering.

    The first, and most important, is the tremendous apparent buyers’ regret among people who voted for Trump in 2016 as manifested in elections around the country. While some of these have involved local issues and candidate personalities, some appear to specifically have relevance to the CD8 race.

    The PA CD18 election, where a Democrat won a House seat that had not gone Democratic in a generation, was so staunchly GOP that the Dems did not field a candidate in 2014 or 2016, and went for Trump by 18 points in 2016. Particularly relevant, CD18 has a large population of steel workers and retired steel workers, as well as mine workers, with a population that in many ways represents a more conservative version of CD8. Also relevant, the election occurred after the recent round of steel tariffs, when they were in the headlines.

    The other races of relevance have been the recent results in Wisconsin. The recent Supreme Court race was won by a Democrat, the first Democrat elected to an open court seat since 1995. The state also rejected ballot propositions put forward by the GOP in that election. Even more relevant, the recent state senate race held just across the St. Croix from a large part of CD8 had a Democrat win against a GOP sitting state representative in a district that had not voted Democratic in recent memory. The section of CD8 directly across the river is a GOP stronghold that is, if anything, more critical to the success of any GOP congressional candidate than the Range is to a DFLer, since they have to count on a large vote in that region to offset votes from Duluth and elsewhere.

    I guess what I am saying is that I tend to agree with Aaron as to the prospect of his second scenario coming true. Unless something changes, Stauber is going to be carrying a huge burden in dealing with Trump regret, and I suspect it will be enough to cost him the win. I understand that people on the Range are upset about the non-ferrous mining issue. I understand that left leaning DFLers are upset about the same thing, as well as other key economic issues. However, I suspect, as happened in PA CD18, people on both sides will decide that in the end, other issues are more important. For the union oriented pro-mining people, I think the down the line anti-union, anti-education, anti-health care, anti-the whole New Deal viewpoint that Ranger listed and that Stauber has endorsed as part of his embrace of Trump will move a lot of votes — obviously not all — to the DFL side in the end. And I believe that many of the people who jg is citing will find that they just cannot swallow a Trump embracing GOP that will make their disagreements with other DFLers easier to swallow. Again, some of them may stay home or vote third party, but I am betting not enough.

    In the end, I think that the tide will be too strong and the differences will be too stark.

    • Well concieved thoughts Gerald with one small problem. The question needs to be… will environmental minded Democrats “swallow a Trump embracing DFL candidate? I hate to hearken back to the lame support Nolan received at the caucuses but it is very relevant when answering this question.

      • Gerald S says

        The question is, if the DFL ends up nominating a candidate who backs non-ferrous mining, will the opponents of mining decide that it is better to elect a candidate who publicly states he oppose both the ACA and single payer, who advocates an approach to the environment that considers global warming a hoax and regulation of pollution a violation of rights, who wants to pass laws that end unions, who supports programs to end not just access to abortion but women’s access to all reproductive health care needs, including coverage of obstetric care, who opposes LGBTQ rights, who enthusiastically supports cutting programs for food aid, health care, and retirement in order to cut taxes for the rich, who opposes public education funding in favor of privatization, who wants to abolish and reverse the admittedly small steps made to regulate the finance industry and protect consumers, who opposes public funding of higher ed in any meaningful way, all in order to punish someone for a position which will not trench on the mining issue, which is now in the hands of the state and the courts?

        At the same time, if the DFL nominates a candidate who opposes non-ferrous mining, will the unions and other supporters choose to elect a candidate with the same laundry list of 19th century ideas in order to punish the candidate for opposing Polymet and Twin Metals?

        The DFL is and will remain a coalition party. If people wish to eliminate a large part of that coalition, they are working hard to elect a Tea Party founder and, in 2020, re-elect Trump.

        I agree with people, including Leah Phifer, who argue that Nolan trespassed on the principles of due process and separation of powers when he tried (without success) to pass laws that overrode due process and normal order in seeking approval for the mining projects. I also agree with people who point out that Nolan consistently was ranked in the top five to ten of the most progressive members of Congress, was an early co-sponsor of Medicare for All, and an early supporter of Bernie Sanders.

        Take a moment to re-read Ranger 47’s manifesto. That is what people form either side of the issue who plan to withdraw support contingent on not getting their way on non-ferrous mining are endorsing. If you can’t see a huge difference between the most conservative of the DFL candidates and that, I don’t know what to say, except that you are saying that you are willing to throw low income people, women, minorities, immigrants, the elderly, children, working class people, and the middle class under the bus in a fit of pique — that is no matter which side you are coming from.

        As to the caucuses, there is not doubt that people wanting to punish Nolan did control the caucuses, and I understand their point. Hopefully, their point will not be to extend that punishment to the large number of people who depend on the programs the DFL has stood for and stands for, and which are now under attack.

        Both DFL groups, if they throw enough of a snit, have it in their power to give Nolan’s seat to a person who would disagree with them on every other major issue. The question is, will they go sane?

        • Gerald…,your thesis sentence is lifted straight from the Hillary web site…but longer. Sorry I was a Hillary supporter. We all have the same laundry list. Most of us understand it will be decades in the making. Non-Ferrous mining on the other hand is now…today. Make no mistake it is present and it is personal. You obviously do not seek compromise when you invoke Polymet and TwinMetals in the same sentence. There are four candidates in the field who do not propose hindering Polymet. I know you understand this Gerald. Clearly it must suit your purposes to link the two projects and point out who is opposed.

          • Gerald S says

            The GOP plan to leave 30 million more people without health insurance is today as well. Gutting the Medicaid program by using “block grants” is today. Cuts to SNAP, housing programs, women’s health, and many other issues are present and personal.

            Those are all issues on today’s agenda for the GOP and backed by Trump and by Stauber. That is what anyone who refuses to back a DFL candidate because of being on one side or the other of the mining issue is backing when they threaten to not vote for one or the other candidate is supporting.

            If the GOP keeps control of the House, and keeps control of the Senate following the imminent retirement of John McCain, those issues will be “today, present, and personal.” They were present and personal in the last Congress as well, but were defeated due to a small number of Republicans of conscience.

            You are fortunate that you do not see those issues as “present and personal.” I know many people who do not have that luxury, and for whom those issues are sometimes literally life and death.

            I am somewhat mystified by your comment about “linking Polymet and Twin Metals,” If I somehow gave you the impression that I would not support the DFL candidates who support Polymet, or that I endorse Michelle Lee, I have confused you badly.

            Let me put it bluntly. I support all of the DFL candidates against Stauber, for all the reasons I list and for all the people for whom those issues are “present and personal” if GOP control of the House and Senate continue.

        • Ranger47 says

          Our local township economist response to jg confirms the strong cynicism that prevails. Same ole, same ole…blah, blah, blah..

        • independant says

          Gerald the “due process” you speak of was a 11th hour hit job on the Obama’s administration on their way out the door. It is rich to overturn existing standards in the middle of the night and then claim that trying to correct them back to what the were is bypassing due process. My friend the original deed of pulling existing leases that have been renewed for three generations without issue is the true violation. Get a grip.

          • The court cases against the Polymet land swap have nothing to do with Obama and everything to do with due process and separation of powers. That is the bill that Nolan actually sponsored.

            Leases are renewed, not automatic. Refusal to renew is not a violation of a contract. It may make people mad who have come to think that leased land is owned land, but is standard in business and government. Ask all the people who lost vacation homes on state lease land when the state refused to renew those leases.

          • BTW, Emmer’s bill to force renewal of the leases in the Boundary Waters watershed was rejected by the Republican House, so the notion that the leases should be held up pending more study is apparently bipartisan. But you probably know that.

          • independant says

            Gerald you are correct if we are talking about the land swap. However why would anyone fight about this land swap when the public would gain usable acreage to recreate. The land people are arguing about is landlocked within what was old LTV mining area with no opportunity for public access, but you already knew that right Gerald.

          • Gerald S says

            No question. However, the litigants have filed their cases and, based on due process, have the right to have their petitions heard. I don’t think anyone at all agrees with the courts all the time, but they still occupy their privileged position as an independent branch of government.

  14. If the Iron Range of Minnesota wants to be like West Virginia, it has a clear path–buy into cynical wedge issues, listen to unions that actually represent the interests of transnational mining corporations, vote trumpishly…..

    All these DFL candidates seem adequately intelligent and articulate. But it just seems so painfully obvious that sulfide ore mining, however the controversies play out, doesn’t speak to the future except symbolically. Environmental catastrophe might ensue. But a thriving region based on high-paid mining employment can’t possibly occur unless one presumes a very small locally-employed population. People are being sold a bill of goods and are not discussing real, viable alternatives. That’s how it looks to an outsider, anyway.

    I fear that in my part of the state the DFL is similarly inwardly -focused and self-indulgent. The Republicans are utterly cynical but understand marketing. Disturbing times to try to understand.

    • Ranger47 says

      Cynicism is certainly on the rise, pretty wide spread and didn’t start with the GOP or Trump winning.

      Many feel like the country is coming apart at the seams. We’ve lost trust in institutions that used to be standard bearers of how we thought of ourselves…and our nation.

      Aaron likes survey results so here’s one..The American Press Institute recently released a survey showing only 6% of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the news media. A new low…contributing to cynical growth.

      The same news media that has worked so hard to drive skepticism of Trump is now experiencing a boomerang effect. The damage done to mainstream media will take a long time to repair. More cynics.

      In spite of exponentially more data/information available today, most Americans don’t get a diversity of opinion because they no longer trust traditional media. So…they read what supports their thinking. This has led to greater division and distrust. To greater cynicism.

      Moving away from “in God we trust” to moral relativism certainly hasn’t helped. Everyone has their own moral standards. More cynicism.

      This nation was built on a faith in God which is now treated as offensive. The devil takes over..he loves cynics.

      Foolish political correctness has run amok. More cynicism.

      Here’s a couple more survey results: According to the Pew Research Center, the steady decline over the last 40 years has left government with an average approval rating in the high teens. Recently a Gallup survey showed that 8 out of 10 Americans believe they only trust the government some of the time to never. And then some want bigger government? more powerful government? government controlling more aspects of our lives? More cynicism.

      The rule of law is no longer respected. Just look at the illegal immigrant issue, the amount of executive orders issued bypassing Congress. More cynicism.

      Over the top disparaging of our law enforcement institutions has reeked disaster…creating only more violence. While approval ratings for police officers remain high, the major networks’ evening news casts have done a great job to paint a picture that cops are on a rampage. More cynics created.

      This wide spread lack of trust in once trusted institution has also created a culture of fear. Again, the media, political class and deep state love to play this up to their advantage. More cynicism.

      So…when the majority of Americans think they are being lied to their face when they watch the news, it’s no surprise we have a nation where a majority of citizens are cynics, skeptics or just plain disillusioned.

      Trust, which would reduce cynicism, is tough to regain. There is a path forward. But at this point, tough to get all us cynics to listen.

      • Gerald S says

        I think you do not understand what “cynicism” means. It is not a synonym for “progressive.” I say this at the risk of falling through the looking glass into Ranger 47-land.

        • Oh I understand cynicism and it’s meaning quite well Gerald. A few closely related words might be – mistrust, doubt, negativism, skeptic, one-sided critic…and others.

          alanmuller stated Republicans are cynical. I simply gave examples, truthful examples, that cynicism is not a GOP thing. It’s widespread throughout America, crossing all classes & boundaries. I never once mentioned “progressive” or any political identity.

          It’s curious though that you equated cynicism to liberal progressive policies…assumed they were synonymous and contributing to the cynicism examples I mentioned above. I smilingly agree with you. Liberal progressive policies have justifiably created millions of cynics…but still believe it’s broader than that.

          • No, read again, Ranger. I know it’s longer than ten words, but I said cynicism is NOT equated with liberal progressive politics. “Idealism” is the word you are looking for there.

  15. Ranger, “Moving away from ‘in God we trust’…now treated as offensive… to moral relativism…everyone has their own moral standards…the devil takes over”. Wow. Have you taken a good look at the party you seem to prefer or do you only pay attention to those sources that support your views and don’t report the cesspool of sex-io-paths, spouse cheaters and abusers in the WH on down to legislators and members of party organizations. Three running for office had committed felonies. Republican party is rife with fraudsters involving phony charities and other illegal money schemes to line their pockets. The scandals are unearthed daily but crickets from so-called family values “Christians”. Clean the devil out of your own house. I don’t know how people tell their own kids and grandkids to stand up and fly right when they turn a blind eye to amoral and immoral behavior in adults.

    • David Gray says

      At least we haven’t, to our knowledge, produced a President who groped women in the White House while serving as President. A very meager achievement but you folks have seriously lowered the bar.

      • LOL while serving as president….ha ha ha…Trump can not even conceive of the concept of having sex and not breaking out his wallet when finished. We need a better word to describe LOSERS like him. Maybe the christian right has biblical name for people like him.

        Sorry everyone for this response..please give me a mulligan.

        • David Gray says

          Generally adulterer would be the word for Trump. Of course the word for Clinton would be rapist. What a race to the bottom.

          Thank you sexual revolution!!!

          • Gerald S says

            Sexual assault is also a term for Trump’s admitted behavior.

            I agree that we are in a race to the bottom. Bush I, Bill Clinton, and Trump all owe the people, and their own supporters especially, an apology. All three Kennedy brothers, Eisenhower, FDR, Harding, McKinley, Cleveland, and on and on back to, as I said, Jefferson, all get a pass for being dead.

            Unless you think the “sexual revolution” started in 1776, whatever that means has nothing to do with it. The only real “revolution” is that the news media decided to start writing a lot more about it, instead of the usual boys will be boys attitude of the past.

          • David Gray says

            I’m afraid that is a steaming pile of poo.

          • Gerald S says

            Undoubtedly is, but it is also the facts in the history of the US, Contrary to some opinion, neither sex nor sexual misbehavior were discovered in 1960, and our forefathers and founding fathers had even more time for it than we do, what with no televised sports, reality TV, or cable news. Powerful and important men have always found mistresses and girlfriends if they are so inclined, and quite a few were so inclined.

            I actually left out one president: LBJ. And when I said the dead ones get a pass I don’t mean to condone their behavior, I mean they don’t have to apologize, what with being dead.

        • David Gray says

          Of course adulterer would also work for Kennedy. Except, as far as we know, Trump is not sharing a mistress with a mob boss like Kennedy did. Again, a race to the bottom.

      • Gerald S says

        Actually, George H.W, Bush has admitted to groping women when he was President.

        Our presidents have a horrible record of behavior toward women, from Thomas Jefferson on.

  16. Lol. Do you really want to talk about low bars? Really?

    • David Gray says

      I already did.

      • The bar has got to go a lot lower yet when we remember Speaker Dennis Hastert.

        Unfortunately, this is not a bar. It’s a trench. And it always has been.

        Let’s go back to talking about something more salubrious, since this is such a rich vein we can keep telling horror stories about it for days.

  17. this tread actually started talking about DC8 democratic candidates and their qualifications. I just googled the $125’000 man (thank you Aaron) Jason Metsa’s web site and came across this…” Jason overcame his own challenges making a life on the Iron Range- when his mother was killed in a terrible car crash at a young age, the financial interests of the insurance company kept his family from receiving the benefits they’ed earned, and he lost a thriving small business at the height of the 2008 recession”.

    So here are a couple questions. What thriving small business did Jason Metsa run? How old was he when his mother was killed? and Was his business plan dependent upon insurance payments on his mothers death? I know these are brutal questions but they are going to be asked in the general so we might as well ask now.

    • independant says

      jg, I don’t think you are following. Sounds like his mother was killed when he was a little kid and his small business when under during the 2008 recession as an adult. Two events decades apart which I would suspect are to give an example of some life hardships demonstrating he can relate to people and their difficulties. Actually pretty standard in a brief bio I would say.

      • I don’t know, but he is running for the congress of the United States of America. This is some lame stuff. Expect TV commercials focusing on this should Metsa win the primary. This is the stuff of republican PAC dreams.

  18. The accident happened long ago when Jason and his three brothers were small children. The parents and children was walking along or near a highway (iric, in Alaska) when a driver drove toward them, hitting their mother who died. I don’t remember any other details.

  19. Bonnie Lokenvitz says

    Don’t forget the southern half of CD8 for where mining is not relevant. We have farmers and non-mining laborers and small business owners. Even the candidates have begun acknowledge us. Population growth in Chisago has gone from about 17000 in 1975 to 57000 in 2017; Isanti from 21000 to 55000. These are not ‘suburban women’ for the DFL to target. These are the people HRC disparaged with her ‘deplorable’ rhetoric.

    Continued talk of only mining discourages DFL’ers down here.

    • Very good point.

      Large parts of the southern part of CD8 are traditionally strongly Republican, and big margins there have been crucial to the GOP having any hope of winning in CD8. However, those same parts of the district, including Chisago and Isanti Counties, are just across the St. Croix from Wisconsin state senate district 10. This winter, WI SD10 elected a Democrat for the first time in 17 years, with the winner getting 55% of the vote in a district where Trump won by 17% in 2016. In contrast to some other recent Democratic flips, this one featured a good GOP candidate who, as the incumbent in the House district that is the northern half of SD 10, was well in tune with local electoral sentiment and a well known and experienced campaigner.

      To me, this means that it is going to be very important for the DFL to put on a full court press in the southern half of the district. The discontent with the GOP and Trump that led to the win in SD10 is almost certainly duplicated across the river, and, with the potential added impact of Trump’s trade war on the farms in much of the area, raises the potential of a DFL performance that could make it impossible for Stauber to win regardless of votes on the Range. Duluth and the Range tend to be the entire focus for DFL thinking in CD8, especially by people who live on the Range and in Duluth, but this time around that should not be true.

      It is, of course, impossible not to notice that two of the candidates for the DFL nomination are from Isanti and Chisago Counties, although Phifer spent a good part of her youth in Two Harbors. In the forum I saw in Duluth, both of them had extremely strong performances.

  20. Bonnie Lokenvitz says

    Pete Stauber has been to the southern half of CD8 and he had a good turnout in North Branch. At the end of December he had $136,653 on hand per ‘Open Secrets’.

    At Kanabec’s fundraiser on 4/7, Ken Martin and Michelle Lee had a spirited debate about abiding by the endorsement. Ken brought up the damage done to Skip Humphrey and the short lead time after that year’s September’s primary. Jesse for the win.

    Also I don’t vote for a candidate based on his sob story. I prefer an educated candidate with real world experience.

    • Gerald S says

      Stauber will be very well funded, and will receive excellent professional coaching. The GOP is targeting CD8 as one of its highest priorities, and GOP “independent” groups will be spending heavily as well.

      However, he has clearly made the decision to embrace Trump wholeheartedly, and to embrace Trump’s agenda fully, from immigration to health care to trade wars. We will see how that plays by the time November comes around. Last December, everyone would have said that PA CD18 and WI State Senate 10 would have been safe as could be for the GOP.

      I am afraid that Nolan’s extremely late exit gives anyone who wants to ignore the endorsement — if there is one — and go to the primary a ready made excuse. I am of two minds about a primary. My first thought is the conventional one, that the DFLers will hurt each other with the winner arriving damaged in September and too little time to set it right. The second is that among a field of people who are essentially unknown the primary will give the voters a lot of exposure to them and their ideas, with a lot of attention on them while the GOP candidate wanders around being ignored. Stauber, of course, is at least as unknown as any of the DFLers, with the possible exception of Kennedy, who may only be unknown to me because of her being based so far south. Under this scenario, the winner will emerge with a strong head of steam to charge into the general election.

      For every case like Skip Humphrey and his disaster of a run in 1998, there is a Dayton who emerged from a narrow primary victory to win in a very strong GOP year. Nolan was endorsed but had to run in a primary in 2012 and went on to defeat an incumbent, and Oberstar emerged from a decisive victory in a particularly bloody and bitter primary in which he defeated the endorsed candidate in 1974, although that iteration of CD8 was probably a safe DFL seat and 1974 was one of the best Democratic years in history, coming right on the heels of the Watergate mess and Nixon’s resignation.

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