Steelworkers to back Nolan in MN-8, halting Cravaack gains

The United Steelworkers, representing about 3,000 Iron Range taconite miners, are set to endorse Rick Nolan in his bid to unseat Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8). The endorsement is expected to occur during a “major announcement” planned by the Nolan campaign at 3:30 Wednesday at the Mineview in the Sky south of Virginia, Minnesota. The Steelworkers also represent other trade workers in the district, including some nurses and most paper mill workers.

Though the Steelworkers have historically kept a close relationship with the DFL party there were some factors this year that threw this endorsement into question. This summer, a Steelworkers union vote at Mesabi Nugget failed. Meantime, Cravaack has made serious attempts to reach out to the Range mining community. In the end, however, Steelworker support for Nolan bore out in local union meetings and tomorrow the district union is expected to back the DFLer in this closely-watched congressional race.

Today Cravaack has released a series of press releases touting his criticism of the Environmental Protection Agency over perceived threats to the mining industry, indicating that he will continue to press Nolan on long established environmental law.

Both campaigns have made some effort to branch out into non-mining issues. Nolan attacked the former pilot Cravaack over aviation and transportation issues during a press event last Sunday at the Duluth air show. And Cravaack’s team released an item attacking Nolan on gun control, another staple negative issue in MN-8.

Local news, however, has been dominated by the mining conversation. The Steelworkers endorsement will help Nolan on the Iron Range, where Cravaack had previously been making gains. As I pointed out in the primary, the Steelworker endorsement of Tarryl Clark earned her unexpected, measurable results in portions of the Iron Range. It’s not just a talking point; the Steelworkers still have a reasonably well organized political operation.

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