DFL lawmaker Jason Metsa enters Eighth District race

Jason Metsa

Today, State Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) announced his bid for the DFL nomination for Congress in Minnesota’s Eighth District.

“I am running for Congress because I know that we only make progress for Northern Minnesota families when we have each others’ backs and stand up to fight for each other,” said Metsa in his announcement.

Metsa spoke Wednesday to the Mesabi Daily News:

“It just seemed like the right fit right now to get out and make a difference,” Metsa said in an interview Wednesday. His official campaign announcement is scheduled for today. “I asked myself ‘What’s Congress going to be like for my son?’ I don’t know, and that scared the hell out of me, to be honest. That’s no way to build a prosperous future.”

First elected to the Minnesota House 6B seat in 2012, Metsa used an aggressive door-to-door campaign to win the DFL nomination and eventually the election. He plans to carry a similar strategy into the 8th District, where Nolan — known for not being a heavy fundraiser — found success with a boots-on-the-ground approach in his three victories.

“I think that direct contact is what voters want and what a campaign should be based on,” Metsa said, noting his work in the Legislature won’t allow him to personally reach as many voters as his previous campaigns. “Nothing is more powerful than doing it yourself … giving them an opportunity to know who you are.”

In 2012, Metsa succeeded the legendary Iron Range political firebrand Tom Rukavina in the State House. Rukavina remains close to Metsa and his political strategy.

“At the State Capitol, I fought for affordable health care and paid family leave, protected collective bargaining and access to unemployment benefits, and combated illegal foreign steel dumping and expand economic opportunities,” Metsa said in his statement. “In Congress, I will continue to fight for care families can afford, work that pays what it’s worth, and a level playing field for all Minnesota families.”

He also vowed to continue his support of mining projects in the district.

Prior to that, Metsa spent his 20s working as a labor and political organizer on the Iron Range. He became a fixture in the campaign operations of many DFL candidates. He is the grandson of the late Virginia mayor Elder Metsa, a well-known figure in Iron Range political history. Metsa is also the nephew of singer/songwriter Paul Metsa, another Virginia native.

If you want labels, you could consider Metsa one of the closest candidates to organized labor now in the race and the most unambiguously pro-mining. One of his challenges will be in distinguishing himself against fellow Iron Ranger Joe Radinovich who occupies some of the same real estate in the 8th District DFL coalition.

If Metsa takes this campaign to the primary he’ll have to abandon his State House seat. This could create another political opening on the eastern Mesabi.

Indeed, Metsa joins a crowded DFL field to replace Rep. Rick Nolan, who announced his retirement in February.

Read more at my Minnesota Eighth District coverage page.

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