With Anderson, Lourey out, MN-8 race grows complex

Jeff Anderson

Yesterday, Jeff Anderson announced he would not run for Congress in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District. He had been considering such a run.

However, the former Duluth City Councilor and District Director for retiring U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN8) didn’t stop there. Anderson endorsed Iron Range State Rep. Jason Metsa for the job.

Metsa (DFL-Virginia) has yet to announce his plans, though has been considering a run. I’ve heard he expects to declare his plans this week.

Anderson joins State Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick) in opting out of the DFL race for Congress. Lourey announced last week that his work in the State Senate on health care was too important to leave behind. Whatever the reason, these decisions make a very interesting situation in MN-8.

Tony Lourey

In the growing pool of DFL candidates, Anderson and Lourey were considered strong candidates who might unify the disparate geographic regions of the Eighth. But that’s purely conjecture, as they opted out of running.

Paradoxically, the four DFL candidates currently running have the least elected experience of any of the prospective candidates. Two of them — security analyst Leah Phifer and journalist Michelle Lee — are running for office for the first time. Joe Radinovich served one term in the State House, though has worked for several campaigns. And Kirsten Hagen Kennedy has only one full term under her belt as the mayor of the small town of North Branch.

If Metsa runs, his stark two and half terms in the State House would make the him the wily veteran.

Does this mean there’s still room in this field for more candidates? Probably only if that candidate was capable of standing out in a big way — like, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson or equivalent. (Larson has said she didn’t want to run).

Another complication is that the DFL field now resembles a spectrum of opinions about mining. They range from Metsa’s dogged support of mining projects and deregulation efforts to Michelle Lee’s opposition to copper nickel mining. The others fall somewhere in between.

Meantime, reports from the early county conventions show that Phifer, who had announced a bid for the DFL endorsement before Nolan retired, is doing very well in the delegate hunt. But the big ones — SD6 and SD7, the Iron Range and Duluth — lie ahead.

Over on the GOP side, you don’t see much elected experience either. Pete Stauber has served six years on the St. Louis County board, but has spent most of his career as a police officer. Stewart Mills, if he runs, has the experience of running twice for Congress, but no elected experience prior to that.

Waiting to run in the general, the IP’s Skip Sandman — another outsider.

One takeaway is that the volatile nature of this district is taking its toll on the candidates. No elected official wants to risk failure when you have to raise so much money, endure such a hard campaign, and probably get kicked out of office when the mood of the district inevitably swings.

Further, the nature of political campaigns seems to be favoring younger candidates who don’t have children or candidates who retired or are about to retire from unrelated careers. This business hammers families.

But another possible explanation is that the mood of the district is decidedly anti-establishment. Republican Chip Cravaack, a retired airline pilot, was a complete newcomer to elected politics when he beat veteran DFLer Jim Oberstar in 2010. Though Nolan had prior experience when he beat Cravaack in 2012, he had been wiling away in his rural Crow Wing County community for decades outside of politics. And then he served as something of a maverick while in office.

The point is that whoever emerges in the DFL and potential GOP primaries won’t be someone you might have expected. New leaders will emerge from a fairly chaotic scene in what used to be a sleepy district on the Northern frontier.


  1. Mills is now out of the GOP race as well.

    I keep thinking that Daudt may jump in, since if the GOP loses the majority in the Minnesota House this fall — and in the current atmosphere there is a significant chance they might — he would probably end up with no real future, since his many enemies in the party would quickly close ranks on the notion that he was to blame. In some ways, however, it would be more sensible for him to declare for Tina Smith’s Senate seat.

    Otherwise, we are going to be faced with, as Aaron says, a race among people who are either total political newcomers or who have very minimal records. Not that that means that they are not very qualified for the seat, just that it is interesting that the people in both parties who would usually be seen as the A team are all unwilling to run.

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