Democratic side of the 8th District race to gain some clarity th - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

Democratic side of the 8th District race to gain some clarity this weekend

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On Saturday, the DFL party will officially announce its endorsement for the 8th District seat. 

It's been a tight race in years past, and this year it once again looks to be another photo finish. 

The DFL candidates are Kirsten Kennedy the current Mayor of North Branch, Michelle Lee, former Duluth TV news anchor, Rep. Jason Metsa, D - Mountain Iron, Joe Radinovich, a former  Minnesota State Representative and Leah Phifer, a former FBI Intelligence Analyst. 

Those five candidates are all vying for the coveted endorsement from the DFL Party on Saturday. On the line is a chance to represent the people of Minnesota's 8th District in Washington D.C for the next two years. One of them could fill the seat current Congressman Rick Nolan holds, who is retiring at the end of his current term. 
The DFL candidate to move on from the primary will likely square off against Republican Candidate Pete Stauber, and Independent Ray "Skip" Sandman in November. Stauber is currently a St. Louis County Commissioner. 

Winning the district won't be easy, as history has proved it to be one of the most expensive, and closest House races in the country in recent elections. 

"This is one of the most hotly contested districts in the country. The last three have trended in that direction, this one is going to be the same," said Iron Range political blogger, Aaron Brown, who owns He is the former editor of the Hibbing Tribune and has closely followed Iron Range politics since 2000. 

Just past the quarter pole before November's election, Brown says winning the DFL Endorsement for the seat on Saturday will go a long way. 

"[It] brings with it some name recognition, and a little bit of party support going into the election," said Brown.  

In the unofficial winner's circle right now, a poll from the Mesabi Daily Newspaper has Cuyuna Ranger Joe Radinovich in the lead, with Iron Range Rep. Metsa, holding second, and Kennedy rounding out third. Phifer and Lee are 4th and 5th respectively. 

Radinovich and Rep. Metsa also hold the lead in campaign fundraising among Democrats that have released fundraising information. 

Brown said, "Those fundraising numbers will matter more, especially as the summer goes on. Candidates without any money can't run ads, can't hire people, and are going to get lost in the mix in the long run."  

Brown thinks whoever gets the endorsement this weekend will be the candidate who can resonate with a very large and diverse district. 

With more than 600,000 thousand residents, the district spans 27,000 square miles, with a diverse group of voters, from the Iron Range, to the Cuyuna Range, and multiple counties near the metro area.

"That mix is what makes this so interesting," said Brown,  "You need a coalition of these regions and the people in it to win," he said. 

Brown says that means mining stances might not be the biggest horse in the race for voters. 

"One of the overstatements I think is that Iron Range miners will tilt the election one way or another," said Brown. He continued, saying, "Most people who live in the 8th District are not motivated first and foremost by mining. They are motivated by other issues. But, some of the most volatile voters, the ones who switch back and forth the most, or might consider voting third party, are motivated by either pro-mining or anti-mining sentiments. So, that's why mining ends up the most discussed issue in this race because it has the most malleable group of voters who are bouncing back and forth on the issue." 

Brown says the candidate most likely to pull off the photo finish, will be the one who can best represent the diverse voices in the 8th District

"It'll be incumbent on who could be endorsed, to convince people that they can represent this very big, very unusual district, and inspire people. If I was doing anything as a candidate, I'd be working on a speech, and working on a speech that connects with all the people there," said Brown.

KBJR 6 was told that all DFL candidates would abide by the party endorsement, with the exception of Lee. A spokesperson for her campaign said Lee is undecided. 

If a candidate were to run without the endorsement, they could still be chosen in a primary election. Nolan was endorsed by the DFL in 2012, before holding off Jeff Anderson and Tarryl Clark in a primary election. In 1974, Jim Oberstar did not receive the party endorsement but won his primary election before serving 18 consecutive terms, spanning 36 years in the 8th District.  

The 2016 election saw incumbent Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan narrowly beat Republican challenger Stewart Mills. It was so close in the weeks leading up to election day that then Vice President Joe Biden appeared in Duluth to stump on behalf of Nolan. Brown says he believes there is a better than 50% chance that President Trump could make an appearance on the Iron Range to stump on behalf of the Republican candidate, Pete Stauber. President Trump has reportedly already called Stauber to lend his support for his race for the seat. 

Campaign fundraising for Democrats is the following: 

  • Rep. Jason Metsa: $132,000
  • Joe Radinovich: $110,000 
  • Leah Phifer: $100,000
  • Michelle Lee: Not Announced 
  • Kirsten Kennedy: Not Announced

Meanwhile, Stauber leads all candidates with $237,000. 

A spokesperson for independent Party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman says they aren't releasing their fundraising numbers. Mike Kuitu said only that they've raised about three times more than they did in his last election bid, which was just shy of $6,000 

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