MN-8: An election that will shape northern Minnesota

My series on the 2012 campaign for Minnesota’s Eighth District congressional district seat is complete. Freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8) will face off against one of several potential DFL challengers for a race that will say a lot about the demographics, politics and issues facing northern Minnesota’s future.

If you missed the beginning, here are the posts in the order they ran.

Covering a key northern toss-up

A new district in more ways than one (redistricting scenarios)

Chip Cravaack readies defense against DFL challengers

The campaigns that never were

Jeff Anderson runs with Range roots, Duluth experience

Tarryl Clark moves north for run at Cravaack

Rick Nolan comeback bid shakes up race

Other DFL contenders may break out of pack

If I missed a potential candidate or got something wrong, let me know. It’s my goal to provide information and perspective on the race and its meaning. I have my biases, but I’m also trying to be fair. If you’re wondering why I didn’t go into policy position differences it’s because I plan to do a recorded interview with all the announced candidates before next winter’s precinct caucuses. In those interviews I’ll ask policy questions.

People say that politics is getting ugly these days. And I suppose it is, but no one’s been clubbed nearly to death on the floors of Congress with a walking stick. No one has raised a posse to capture Mexico with designs to return and overthrow Washington. These things actually happened about 200 years ago, which is three elderly people ago.

Northern Minnesota politics has a reputation of being rough-and-tumble on account of the labor history of the region. In truth, it’s been pretty sleepy and stagnant for 30 years. The change represented by Cravaack’s 2010 win will come into clearer focus with this 2012 campaign. There’s an old Chinese proverb which may or may not be real, and may or may not be a curse, that says “May you live in interesting times.” What is known is that emotions are running hotter because we are beginning to enter interesting times.

The MN-8 race could go either way. Medicare privatization in particular is an issue that, because of the district’s aging demographics, will favor the Democrats. National trends, particularly the economy, will have a major influence.

If the DFL were unified around a baggage-free candidate at this point I’d argue that the race would lean Democratic. However, the DFL is likely to go through a long process to name a candidate, probably involving a primary. Festering generational conflict within the party will spill out in some spectacular, yet-to-be-determined way. Republicans will be united and highly motivated to strengthen their position in this Great Lakes Midwestern district, though it’s easy to see them overreaching and alienating moderates. As a result, the only proper classification now is TOSS-UP. It really could break either way, though more likely to break DFL in a high turnout scenario or an Obama win in Minnesota.

Follow MinnesotaBrown on Facebook or Twitter for news. My book, a humorous primer on life north of the metro, is “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”


  1. A good service so far, Aaron, updating the voters here on the aftermath of a defeat few of us saw coming.

    For years the Aitkin County DFL put money into a rainy-day election fund in the Eighth for the day when Oberstar would announce his retirement. At last report it contained thousands.

    As for my Dream Candidate, since Dennis Anderson has a deserved retirement coming. I would nominate “Aaron Brown,” who can write his own speeches – and knows the issues and the political history well, for someone as young as Jeff Anderson.

    -Gord Prickett, Aitkin County

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