CHISHOLM — In the final debate before Tuesday’s midterm election, 8th Congressional District candidates met in a less combative fashion after a series of lively meetings leading up to Tuesday night.
Democrat Joe Radinovich, Republican Pete Stauber and Independence Party candidate Ray “Skip’ Sandman faced off at the Minnesota Discovery Center, just one week before the midterm election on Nov. 6.
The 8th District is among the most watched and most expensive races in the nation this cycle and considered a critical swing seat as control over the U.S. House appears at stake next week. They are looking to replace Congressman Rick Nolan, who is retiring after three terms in the 8th District.
Tuesday’s debate was on the same day a judge ordered St. Louis County to release emails between Stauber and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Radinovich hit Stauber over using a county email to communicate with the NRCC, while Stauber later criticized Radinovich for past legal issues.
“For the last month and a half, we’ve heard there was no wrongdoing, when it fact today there are numerous emails with the NRCC,” Radinovich said.
Stauber said he was happy the county released the emails. He later countered by bringing up Radinovich’s past fines from parking and speeding tickets, while Sandman tried to remain above the fray. He compared the two at one point to “third and fourth graders.”
“I’m just going to let you two continue arguing between yourselves,” he said.
If Republicans can swing the 8th District seat next week, it could go a long way in maintaining its House majority. Nolan won the district in 2016 by just 0.6 percent. They’re hoping traditional DFL strongholds like the Iron Range swing like two years ago, when President Trump won the region and the district, making Stauber’s run an enticing potential victory for the party.
Democrats meanwhile are trying to reclaim both chambers of Congress by winning back working class voters lost to Trump’s message.
“I’m the only candidate that can say I support iron ore mining, precious metals mining and Enbridge replacement Line 3,” Stauber said.
The recent Trump administration decision to rescind a federal mining ban was the sharpest disagreement among the candidates on mining and development near the Iron Range.
Sandman said he was cautious of copper-nickel mining in general, while Radinovich and Stauber agreed only on opposing the Obama administration’s decision to enact the withdrawal in the final weeks of his term.
Stauber met with President Trump this summer before a Duluth rally where he said he focused on the withdrawal. In September, the administration rescinded it, a decision he praised.
“I’m very proud President Trump did it,” he said. That was the biggest assault on our way of life.”
Radinovich said the Trump administration further politicized the issue and tried to connect Stauber’s emails to the action being more politically motivated than science-based.
“I support mining. I support the exploration of minerals in the Superior National Forest,” he said. “This hits on something else. Unilateral actions can move the ball one way or the other, but they are not sustaining solutions for the people of the Iron Range.”