IP touts Sandman candidacy in MN-8

Ray “Skip” Sandman addresses the Independence Party caucus in Cloquet on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. (PHOTO: Independence Party)

Much has already been made of the contentious race in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District. But it bears mentioning we’re still only in the first act of a long play that will feature an appearance by Ray “Skip” Sandman on the Independence Party ticket in November.

The IP issued a statement Wednesday welcoming former Green Party member Sandman to the party.

“We are very excited to have a candidate of Ray Sandman’s caliber, experience and knowledge come over to the IP and seeking our endorsement,” said Phil Fuehrer, Independence Party State Chair.

Independence Party leaders indicated that Sandman would soon receive endorsement for Congress.

UPDATE: On Feb. 12, the IP issued this statement:

Saint Paul – The Independence Party of Minnesota has endorsed Ray “Skip” Sandman, 64, of Duluth in his bid for the Congressional District 8 seat. This will be an open seat following the announcement from Rick Nolan that he will not seek re-election.

Sandman and the Independence Party look forward to a competitive race. “For too long, the candidates of the two major parties have taken the people of the eighth for granted and have chosen to represent the interests of corporations and their wealthy donors,” said Sandman. He is focusing on protecting the waters of Minnesota, opposing the PolyMet copper-sulfide mine and expanding the availability of higher education among his proposals. “Investment in our students means that business will flourish,” stated Sandman.

“The IP continues to grow and attract quality candidates,” noted Phil Fuehrer, State Chair. “Skip Sandman joining our team gives the voters of CD 8 a true independent choice for this open seat,” Fuehrer added.

The endorsement of Sandman occurred during Sunday’s State Executive Committee Meeting on a unanimous voice vote of the nine members present and voting.

The setting for all this drama is a closely contested House seat that covers a sprawling, complex region in Northeastern Minnesota. Elections here often score as among the most expensive in the nation.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan has won three tough races since his return to Congress in 2012 after a long career outside politics. Nolan served three terms in the late 1970s when his home near Crosby was drawn into a different district.

Nolan is typically viewed as a pro-labor progressive or, in GOP attack ads, an “old time liberal.” Nevertheless, Nolan faces pressure from his left flank over his support for copper-nickel mining projects in Northern Minnesota.

As we’ve often discussed, this year Nolan draws a DFL party endorsement challenge from former FBI intelligence analyst Leah Phifer. While he’s still expected to win endorsement, Nolan will have to hustle for delegates more aggressively than usual to do so. [UPDATE: Nolan is retiring]

And then, when that’s done, Nolan enters a general election to face Duluth police captain and St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber, the presumptive GOP nominee. Here we can expect many millions of dollars spent, including scads of dark outside money. Again, nothing new here. We’re starting to get used to it.

But unlike the 2016 race, where Nolan outlasted Stewart Mills despite President Trump handily winning MN-8, Nolan will also have to avoid losing too many votes to Sandman.

Yes, Democrats are polling well across the country, but I’ve not seen any evidence that MN-8 is anything but whisker close and at least 50-50 on President Trump. Nolan will need a bigger margin than he got last time if Sandman pulls anything like the four percent he got in 2014.

Sandman running with the IP gives him a new image. The IP generally stakes out a centrist position while the Greens park on the far left. And while it’s the same Sandman, he may find new territory in the electorate.

Plenty of variables remain here. Does Phifer’s challenge hold up? Does the convention become a PR problem? And then how does Stauber hold up as a candidate? Right now he’s enjoyed a marvelous “on paper” candidacy. But what happens when the war machine is fired up?

Indeed, the orchestra isn’t even warmed up yet on this political play in the North Woods of Minnesota.


  1. The IP endorsing Sandman is an interesting move, since he is far, far to the left of usual IP positions, which tend to be a mix of what previously was the more moderate wing of the GOP and of libertarians. This strikes me as almost purely mischief making designed to take votes away from Nolan in order to benefit Stauber.

    Meanwhile, it is going to be very important that the DFL bend over backwards to treat Phifer as fairly as possible, since the key for the DFL here is to hold her supporters in the fold for November by avoiding angering them (further) and making them feel they have been cheated.

    I am of two minds about the endorsement. Phifer has said she will honor the endorsement, so having Nolan endorsed at the CD8 convention would end her candidacy and give Nolan an open road. However, the whole endorsement process tends to touch off feelings of being manipulated and cheated among supporters of the losing candidate, whereas it is much harder to argue that you have been cheated in a primary. It is my perception that almost all of Phifer’s support is actually a pure expression of anti-Nolan sentiment, since her stand on non-ferrous mining is not all that different from Nolan’s once the two House bills are put aside. I am left to wonder whether the desire for revenge among the environmentalist supporters of Phifer would be sated by denying Nolan the endorsement, allowing them to vote DFL in November, or if their anger requires that Stauber be elected to punish Nolan.

    • independant says

      Sounds like a great way for the DFL to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the 8th. So far I can say they are doing a fantastic job of trying to alienate as many blue collar traditional DFL voters as possible. Common sense and compromise seem to no longer be an option in politics.

      • Many of those “blue collar” voters left the party already, they don’t represent much of a left leaning persuasion any longer besides labor, which republicans have systematically destroyed for years. Ironic

  2. Leah Phifer is a solid candidate, despite your views on copper-Nickel mining. Trying to paint her supporters as merely an environmental fringe, while endorsing a usually Green Party candidate, seems a lot like an attempt to weaken the stronger of the two leading contenders to this point who would counter Stauber. This has a pro copper-Nickel lobby feel to it in my mind. Many on the range know that’s a bad idea and don’t want it; Sandman and Phifer included.

  3. We need more 3rd party candidates.
    The democrats & Republicans have become out of touch.
    People need to vote for the best candidate not just party affiliation!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.