Sunday, August 12, 2012 By Aaron Brown
By Aaron J. Brown
Another election is approaching. No, not just the big one in November: I’m talking about Tuesday.
Yes, this Tuesday!
Minnesota’s primary election moved to August. For many in northern Minnesota this has escaped notice. Summer is for families, beaches, camping and extended power outages, after all.
But seriously, two big local elections are building to their conclusions this week and what seems most remarkable to me is how unremarkable they are to most people. I’d encourage everyone to give this a think and vote on the 14th, regardless of which candidate you decide to support. Ever election affects the future, but this one in particular stands to set the region on a trajectory that may last a decade.
The top line race is the DFL primary in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District. This is the race that will determine who runs against Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8), the freshman incumbent who defeated 36-year House Transportation Chair Jim Oberstar in 2010.
Oberstar, as most know well, was part of an Iron Range DFL political tradition that stretched back to World War II. Born and raised in Chisholm, he represented to many the idea that the Range and surrounding area is and would always be a Democratic stronghold.
Well, I also don’t have to tell you we’ve learned that the world keeps changing. Oberstar lost to Cravaack, a conservative former airline and
Air ForceNavy pilot from Lindstrom in central Minnesota.
The Eighth District race, or MN-8 as it is known in political junkie vernacular, is considered one of the closest in the nation. Everyone wondering whether Democrats or Republicans will control the House of Representatives and the policies of the nation will be watching northern Minnesota for news of this race. This Tuesday, Democrats in our area will select a challenger for Cravaack.
I’ve interviewed all three candidates in the DFL race and am working to schedule an interview with Cravaack as well. Because of this, I’ve been getting calls from friends and relatives asking who these people are. Well, I’ll tell you.
Jeff Anderson is a former Duluth city councilor and radio ad sales manager. He was born and raised in Ely and served in the National Guard.
Anderson, 35, is the youngest candidate in the race. He decided to run directly in the primary instead of following the party endorsement process because he believes his stance on new mining in northeastern Minnesota would have prevented him from winning the endorsement from a party that features a very strong environmental movement. The primary difference between him and his opponents, who also support new mining, is the degree to which he’s made permit deregulation a priority. His position is virtually identical to that of Cravaack, whose made a concerted effort to push the issue and win Range votes.
Anderson is hoping that the region’s strong tradition of trusting local leaders over ones from elsewhere brings his campaign across the finish line. He has several endorsements from local officials, including several here on the central Iron Range. And he’ll need the help, as he raised far less money than his opponents.
Tarryl Clark is a former state senator from St. Cloud who ran for Congress two years ago in Minnesota’s 6th District against Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN6). Clark moved to Duluth last year amid her run in MN-8. She’s been active in DFL politics and the Blue-Green Alliance, an organization touting partnership between the labor and environmental communities.
Clark, 51, did earn the endorsement of the United Steelworkers union, but has also faced criticism for her decision to move into a new district to run for Congress. In recent weeks she’s touted the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton, who is probably still the most popular national political figure in our region.
Rick Nolan is a former Congressman and businessman from the Crosby area, which he likes to point out is on the Cuyuna Iron Range. Nolan served in Congress for three terms, elected from 1974 to 1980 before retiring early to his business in northern Minnesota.
After a long absence from politics, Nolan decided to return for a run this year. The MN-8 DFL party officially endorsed Nolan last month, as did Oberstar, with whom Nolan served when Crosby was in a different district. Nolan, 68, is the oldest candidate, but says his experience and seniority will serve him well given the gravity of the problems facing both the region and country.
These candidates have all used vastly different strategies in trying to win the first post-Oberstar DFL campaign in northeastern Minnesota. The winner will face Cravaack in one of the most closely-watched campaigns in the country.
Look into the candidates’ positions at their websites or elsewhere to make your decision. I’ve covered the race closely at my blog, MinnesotaBrown.com. And if you support Rep. Cravaack remember that there are Republican primaries in other races, including local races, as well.
It may be summer, but democracy still runs in the heat.
Aaron J. Brown is an author and community college speech instructor from the Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts 91.7 KAXE’s Great Northern Radio Show on public stations.
UPDATE: I've corrected the section on Cravaack, who served in the Navy, not the Air Force. Apologies to the Navy. I know that error is not taken lightly.