Final MN-8 forum tonight amid release of controversial Stauber e-mails

Pete Stauber

A district judge in Duluth ruled this morning that St. Louis County must release e-mail messages exchanged between Commissioner Pete Stauber and the National Republican Congressional Committee using Stauber’s government e-mail address.

UPDATE: St. Louis County released the e-mails this afternoon.

The State of Minnesota previously issued an opinion that the e-mails were public records. Nevertheless, the county and Stauber disagreed. The use of government e-mail resources for political campaigning is prohibited by county and state policies.

The judge ordered the contents of the e-mails to be made public soon, either this afternoon or tomorrow morning. That creates dynamic tension entering tonight’s final Minnesota 8th District election forum at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.

Stauber is running for Congress against Democrat Joe Radinovich and independent Ray “Skip” Sandman. Stauber and Radinovich had been neck-and-neck in the polls, but Stauber built a lead in more recent surveys. Millions of dollars in outside spending tarred Radinovich in local TV broadcasts and web advertising.

But the e-mail controversy shows that Stauber has his vulnerabilities as well. Even if the contents of the e-mails proves benign, and that’s not yet certain, the attempts to keep the e-mails away from the public shows the candidate in unfavorable light.

Further, Democrats have been gaining in generic balloting across the country in recent days, so there is some sense that Radinovich might be climbing back into a close race. I’ll break down the situation later this week, and provide some exciting news about my election coverage.

The Minnesota Discover Center (formerly Ironworld) in Chisholm will host tonight’s forum. The public may attend, but seating will be limited. A social hour begins at 4:30 p.m. The forum will take place from 5-6:30 p.m. The Laurentian and Hibbing chambers of commerce co-sponsor the event. No live video feed planned, but Hibbing Public Access will record the debate for local cable broadcast over the weekend. A number of reporters will be in attendance as well.


  1. independant says

    This entire situation makes it clear that the DFL see where the 8th is heading and this was their Hail Mary attempt, kind of sad. This is absolutely the biggest non story I have ever seen, and that is saying a lot.

    • My understanding is Kirsten Kennedy sent one of the e-mails to Stauber. In this e-mail Kirsten Kennedy gave Stauber negative intel on Leah Phifer before the DFL convention and while both were still DFL candidates. This is the Democrat that Rick Nolan invited to the State of the Union. What is wrong with this besides everything?

      • I agree that it was disappointing that Kennedy emailed Stauber to criticize the Phifer campaign. Up until this, Kennedy had seemed to be the most open minded and in some ways most dynamic of the DFL candidates, albeit one of the least well known.

        Reading the email, it seems that Kennedy was upset with the clearly bad behavior of some people in the crowd at the Phifer rally — this was not Phifer herself — laughing and making jokes about Pete Stauber being wounded in the line of duty as a police officer, and maybe annoyed at Phifer for not scolding the people laughing, something that stands out rather starkly against the spirited defense of her former ICE colleagues in the MNPost that got Phifer in so much trouble with Latinx people. Perhaps, given Kennedy’s background as the daughter and the (now divorced) wife of military officers, the idea of people making fun of someone being injured in carrying out dangerous duties protecting the public struck her as particularly offensive.

        Unfortunately, the incident now reflects badly on Kennedy, on the Phifer supporters who were doing the mockery, and on Phifer herself for standing by and letting it happen without saying anything. All of these things, like Stauber’s own clear violation of the law in using the email account for political activity that was clearly forbidden, are sort of minor league amid the kind of things that are happening among US politicians today, but are disappointing in what they say about everyone involved.

      • Aaron there is a bomb going off on social media about K.K’s e-mail to Stauber. Penny for you thoughts. This kind of stuff could create a fissure that may last for decades.

        • I think that’s a bit overblown, to be honest. I’m not sure Kristen should have sent that e-mail, but I also believe her underlying intentions to be more noble than not. I remember her telling me about how offended she was about that video, and she has her reasons for that. At that point Stauber and friends were already well aware of the video. She didn’t offer any specific information that would have helped him; I think she just felt compelled to do it for her own reasons. And in time no one will care. It might hurt her if she runs for Congress again, maybe, but it’s not the end of the world either.

  2. As Aaron says, this is sort of a tempest in a teapot. I don’t think she should have sent the email, but the bad behavior by Phifer supporters and Phifer’s failure to silence them was already old news.

    I have no doubt that some people are chattering about this on social media. There are a number of former Phifer supporters who cannot wrap their heads around the fact that Phifer is not the candidate primarily because she chose to withdraw. The only way she ever could have won the endorsement would have been if Metsa supporters would have offered a false flag support for Phifer in order to eliminate Radinovich and other candidates who had pledged to honor an endorsement, leaving the moderate lane open for Metsa in a head to head contest with Phifer. Metsa and his people, to their credit, chose not to try that kind of underhanded play. That left the convention split almost exactly 50-50 between Phifer supporters and labor-mining supporters who were clearly never going to support Phifer, leaving everyone well short of the requirement for endorsement. It was obvious from the first round vote that that was what was going to happen, and it did.

    Some die hard Phifer people have been casting around for evidence of nefarious plots to block her. I cannot tell you how many people I have heard insist that the Latinx Caucus effort to oppose her was a plot organized by Radinovich, apparently based on the opinion that Latinx people are incapable of arriving at their own positions based on what they see as an endorsement of mistreatment of their people. The die hards apparently were totally unaware that the Latinx fury at Phifer had been roiling Twin Cities blogs and social media ever since she declared her candidacy shortly after her enthusiastic public endorsement of ICE in the MNPost, including a reference to ICE tracking down “bad hombres,” a phrase that has almost the same impact on Latinx people as the n-word does on African Americans.

    Phifer fell short on the endorsement. I liked her, but she chose to not contest the primary for reasons she has not shared with the general public. She also seems to have made the decision to leave politics and perhaps the area. I am not comfortable with the Kennedy email to Stauber, but she may have had her reasons. It is not at all clear what her future is in politics, and this revelation may have a negative impact.

    In this story, the people who come off the worst by far are Phifer supporters who were behaving so unpleasantly at the rally, and who continue to behave badly in expressing confused and frankly somewhat racist ideas about the Latinx group. Being a supporter of important progressive causes does not exempt people from the rules of civil behavior and respect for others.

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