Friday, August 31, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Negotiations between Cliffs, U.S. Steel, Arcelor-Mittal and the Steelworkers continue in Pittsburgh to complete a long term binding labor contract. Still at risk are the operations of the Range's largest mine, U.S. Steel's MinnTac, and Keewatin Taconite. Arcelor-Mittal's Minorca Mine may also be affected. If negotiations there sour today, operations at Cliffs mines would then be in jeopardy, too.
There is no official word at this time how far apart the parties are in their talks. Steelworker locals were prepared to begin the picket line tomorrow morning. But with the temporary deal it's clear that neither party want nor are prepared for a strike, so operations will continue in the short run.
I was on MPR's Daily Circuit this morning talking about this issue. The audio is embedded below.
Friday, August 31, 2012 By Aaron Brown
The poll shows that when respondents are given "positive information" about both candidates, Nolan's lead increases to 7 points, showing perhaps that he has room to build more support as the campaign wears on.
Nevertheless, the house effect of an internal poll should be considered and an outside sponsored poll would be a welcome addition to this analysis. It does appear that "toss-up" is a fair designation for this race despite the long DFL primary fight.
Friday, August 31, 2012 By Aaron Brown
In short, different congressional campaigns around the state are seeing very different reactions to the infusion of social issues -- particularly Missouri GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin's comments about rape and abortion. I argue that here in the 8th, DFLers are less likely to bring up the choice/life debate or even gay rights because of the influence of a strong band of DFL voters who are socially conservative.
This is changing a little, however, as more socially conservative voters end up tracking toward the Republican party anyway. In fact, I'd argue that 8th District Republicans are among the most socially conservative GOP voters in the state.
Thursday, August 30, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Steelworker contacts tell me this negotiation session has been unlike previous ones in that very little news has come home from the tables out East. Threats of temporary workers at Cliffs Natural Resource properties were met with strike tents and preparations for pickets by the Steelworkers. Word is that it is Arcelor-Mittal, owner of Inland, is the one driving the hardest bargain. U.S. Steel is also involved in the discussions.
No replacement workers have been seen on the Range as of last night. To me, it seems a strike with such strong market demand for taconite right now is highly unlikely. But there are subtle wars going on for the future of labor on the Range, and that is no small thing.
I'll be on Minnesota Public Radio's The Daily Circuit live at 10 a.m. Friday talking about the labor situation and the condition of the labor movement in northern Minnesota. Tune in on the MPR News network or at MPRNews.org.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Where I live, the Iron Range region of northern Minnesota, ethnic heritage is still kind of a big deal. The effect is fading with the generations, but you still get asked where your people came from and you best know the answer.
My people came from, in order of blood percentage, Finland, Norway, Sweden, England (Cornish miners on one side, protestant farmers on the other), northern Ireland and spritzes of other major European powers. In fact, I just recently learned that a distant thread of my family that I thought was German is actually French. Maybe this somehow explains something about me, like fixing a bad guess on a crossword puzzle.
Well, I'm not the only one working through an identity crisis right now. This Jeremy Stahl article from Slate (h/t Andrew Sullivan) shows that the Swedish Chef, "the unintelligible, shotgun-wielding, and much beloved chaos Muppet," is by no stretch of the imagination Swedish. Oh sure, most people figure out quickly that he was never speaking actual Swedish. But Swedes, if you can get them to talk about it, apparently believe his vocal patterns are much more similar to that of the Norwegian language than Swedish.
The evidence is compelling.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 By Aaron Brown
These sorts of "ticking clock" moments often occur around contract negotiation time. Word on the ground is that union and management are confident a deal will be reached. But we are just a few days away from this deadline and no one is reporting the exact status of the negotiations.
Several thousand workers would be affected if there is no contract.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 By Aaron Brown
I have a few projects going this week but will be back soon with more coverage of politics, news and culture in northern Minnesota. Such trivial things, really. We'll live through the winter, most of us anyway. Those poor bastards, the grasshoppers, have but days.
Sunday, August 26, 2012 By Aaron Brown
By Aaron J. Brown
Growing up, we had a phone book back when that really meant something. That’s where the numbers were. You had to know your friend’s dad’s name. If a girl’s dad had a nickname next to his name, like “Chopper” or “Butch” if his real name was “Edward,” you didn’t call that girl. It wasn’t going to work. I lived in a part of America that had one or two “Willinghams” in the phone book but about 100 Ahos and no shortage of Dicklichs. The phone book told you everything.
I am left contemplating area codes after reading a post by Bob Collins on his MPR “News Cut” blog last week. The meaning of an area code is changing.
Near the front cover of that old phone book you’d find a map of our known world, the lower 48 contiguous states of the union, dissected like a jigsaw puzzle. This was the area code map. We knew from kindergarten that we lived in (218). This was as relevant as a congressional district or state or even country. There were really only a few things they forced us to memorize at those tiny tables: Letters, numbers, colors, our names, our addresses and, of vital importance to our safety, our phone numbers. Everyone had different phone numbers, but everyone had the same area code.
I used to wonder who had our phone number over in the other area codes. They were like dimensions. Perhaps there were other versions of me over in (212) or (507) or (815). Perhaps they are still there, having made different life choices. I wonder how much is nurture and how much is nature? Only the other area code versions of me would know.
Here in (218) country, an area code dominated by woods, waters, the Iron Range and Duluth, we have a word for our state’s metropolitan area. Actually we have several, most of them unprintable. But one of them is “612er.” If you see someone with a (612) number, they’re from “down there.” (651) isn’t much better. They’re calling from “down there, up here.” They want to buy our family land and turn it into a tofu refinery. They’ve got shiny teeth and golf clubs and “ha-ha-ha” about that new thing in Minnetonka. They want to force Grandma out of her house because they work for the bank. They’ve got nice cars they can’t fix and rap music and those fancy shirts and we just don’t understand how you can live like that.
But what now? As Collins points out from a Boston Globe story, area codes don’t mean what they used to. More people are using a cell phone as their primary phone. Regulations allow you to keep your number no matter where you go. The large number of phone numbers in use means that area codes are being bisected every year into new, strange numbers that mean nothing.
My sister and brother-in-law moved to Apple Valley, but still have (218) numbers. The piano player in my radio show lives in Zim, where he chops up brush and throws around timbers or who knows what, but he has a (612) number from when he was in college.
There’s that popular “rule” among the kids these days that if you’re dating someone but in a different area code you can run around with new people. Under this rule in these modern times, there might be a 612er jumping the fence of your girlfriend’s house as we speak! Watch out for those (320)s. They’re smooth talkers and big drinkers.
Everyone’s got caller ID, but we still don’t know who’s calling. I’m still a 218er, but the 612ers walk among us. I wish I knew who to call, but all I’ve got is this 800 number that goes to a call center in Mumbai. I guess just send me a letter, so long as they keep my post office open.
Aaron J. Brown is an author and community college instructor from the Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts 91.7 KAXE’s Great Northern Radio Show on public stations.
Friday, August 24, 2012 By Aaron Brown
I'm excited to see two performers from my Great Northern Radio Show in the mix. Iris Kolodji of Hibbing and Sonny Johnson of Bemidji, both singer-songwriters who just graduated high school, will be among the 10 contestants. The Hibbing paper talked to Iris. They're both excellent and have appeared multiple times on our first season of radio programs.
The Reif Center in Grand Rapids is one of the reasons life here in northern Minnesota is so dang enjoyable. You get the woods and waters, and then you have access to some underrated cultural activity as well. This ought to be a great show, so go check it out if you can.
An added aside, the Great Northern Radio Show will broadcast our summer 2013 show from the Reif Center. We're working on putting together an extra special show for that occasion, by far our biggest theater yet. Our next show is Oct. 20 from the Boardman Theater at Eveleth-Gilbert High School in Eveleth. This is also in a bigger theater venue than we're used to, so we're trying to shoehorn in as much excitement as possible.
Thursday, August 23, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Absent from the tour were some of the answers about production estimates, whether the mine will indeed proceed to an integrated mining and steelmaking process, and labor issues. Those are all things that will be major discussion points in the future.
Thursday, August 23, 2012 By Aaron Brown
* I couldn't find the link to my old story about the deer molesting guy in northern Wisconsin. It was on the old HTML site. But if you recall, he was caught having sex with a dead deer on the side of a road. Prosecutors had a hard time charging him because technically a dead deer is not protected under law. It's an inanimate object!
Wednesday, August 22, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Gauthier appears to have changed his mind after a strong negative reaction to this news. There was talk of a move to do some kind of public rebuke on the House floor during Friday's special session. This would have been very complicated as the session was being held to allocate flood relief to Duluth, including Gauthier's district.
It's not known whether any sort of discipline will still take place Friday after Gauthier's announcement, or how the DFL will respond to the prospect of a write-in campaign. But after a very tumultous news cycle this story has returned to its previous position: mild chaos.
UPDATE: Northland's NewsCenter has now released the full video of their interview with Kerry Gauthier. It's well worth a watch or read. This was before his decision to drop out of the race, but does give you his first public apology and explanation of what's been happening with him in recent days.
At this point, one can only wish him the very best in his recovery and in his life. In time, he may find the ability to serve the community again. It's been a very heated, emotional debate over this issue. I think Kerry did the right thing to withdraw from the race and hope you join me in respecting his decision and his efforts here on.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Wednesday, August 22, 2012 By Aaron Brown
I don't know at this time how he plans to address the incident itself or the fact that his House DFL caucus has called for the end of his campaign. Two DFL candidates, Duluth assistant fire chief Erik Simonson and Duluth city councilor Jay Fosle, have already announced write-in campaigns. Republican Travis Silvers was already on the ballot and surely must have the attention of his party's House caucus at this point.
This is political malpractice of the highest order. Gauthier has done everything wrong from the incident itself until the present. He will not be re-elected under any circumstances, but his presence on the ballot will cause persistent problems for the DFL and opposition to the marriage amendment.
UPDATE: The Duluth News Tribune apparently has knowledge of the NNC report and shares some of the details here. Two prominent labor leaders in Duluth are vowing to continue supporting Gauthier.
Monday, August 20, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Rep. Kerry Gauthier, who last week admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old at a rest stop, has yet to address the media. Late last week he checked out of a Duluth hospital where he was observed for a couple days for breathing problems. Duluth city councilor Jay Fosle has announced a write-in campaign for Gauthier's 7B House seat. Duluth assistant fire chief and labor activist Erik Simonson is also running a write-in campaign. Moments ago, DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen called on Gauthier to withdraw from the race. We've established that no matter what happens, Gauthier's name will remain on the ballot. The Republican on the ballot in 7B is Travis Silvers would normally be an "also-ran," but as one of the two printed names on the ballot gets to be a major contender.
And on Friday, everyone gets together in St. Paul for a special session to provide flood relief ... to Duluth. Many millions of dollars at stake, including people's lives and livelihoods.
Hot town. Summer in the city.
Sunday, August 19, 2012 By Aaron Brown
By Aaron J. Brown
August mixes the heat of summer with crisp night air, reminding us that seasons do pass and, so too, memories. One summer, must have been 1997, I was off from school working nights at a radio station. I’d spend the days biking or driving around northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. There was a used book store in Virginia where I’d buy dusty old classics and then find some comfortable location to read, usually far away from my home where it was uncomfortable to read.
It was during this time that I bought a yellowed paperback edition of Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men” that fit in your palm. The top corner of the cover was clipped, showing that it was once new but was not purchased new. It found some other strange path to this stale book store in the heart of the Mesabi.
“All the King’s Men” is a political novel, which is what drew me to it, but the human element of the story extends beyond the Depression era Southern politics. “All the King’s Men” explores idealism, loyalty, ambition and power. Many see parallels between the fictional governor Willie Stark and real-life Huey Long of Louisiana, for whom Warren once worked. But Warren said the story never intended to be purely political. Indeed, it runs much deeper.
Issues of class also enter “All the King’s Men.” Willie, a poor country farm boy, senses his own talent and hungers deeply for the power and influence denied him. He believes a little bit of evil is sometimes required to do good, and he does mass volumes of both. His aide, and the narrator of the story, Jack Burden is the son of a wealthy coastal family. He seeks simplicity, love, and understanding of who he really is beyond his surname, which graces the place where he’s from. Jack thinks people act on impulses deep within them, and finds comfort there. Both Willie and Jack sacrifice much on their missions; both of their journeys carry great consequences.
Though Warren sets the novel in the Deep South of the 1920s and ‘30s, it was easy for me to see parallels on the Iron Range of the 1990s and even, perhaps especially, today. I felt like Willie. I felt like Jack Burden. Examples of each of them could be found all around. A section near the end of the book, after the interwoven human time bomb has exploded, contains Jack Burden’s conclusions about the nature of good and evil in this world he had labored for both:
“Separateness [from God] is identity and the only way for God to create, truly create, man was to make him separate from God himself, and to be separate from God was to be sinful. The creation of evil is therefore the index of God’s glory and his power. That had to be so that the creation of good might be the index of man’s glory and power. But by God’s help. By his help and in His wisdom.”
Why do bad things happen to good people? Why are so many awful people in such high places? It does not really matter, so long as you do the most good you can. To deviate from that is to tempt fate, to welcome disaster. This is the message I take from “All the Kings Men,” and it has generally proven true in my life.
I read many books those hot teenage summers on the Range, in lieu of parties, girlfriends and motorcycles. I recall many of them, echoes really, but only “All the King’s Men” has endured many more readings, becoming my favorite book. This has only become more true as life’s travails pass like the mile markers on one of Willie Stark’s ill-gotten highways. In our constant seeking for our place on earth, we often corrupt our true purpose and potential.
Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from the Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts 91.7 KAXE's Great Northern Radio Show on public stations.
Friday, August 17, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Only Minnesota Power seems capable of making a deal happen and they are mum on the subject. MP and Excelsior have not played well together in the past. I have serious doubts about the Taconite site working for Minnesota Power, so we may yet go all the way back to the drawing board, again. No more public money. Millions already scorched.
Friday, August 17, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Friday, August 17, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Here's another Chris Saunders graphic showing the DFL primary results in the Minnesota State House District 6B primary last Tuesday.
The results went like this:
LORRIE JANATOPOULOS, 2590, 41.16%
JASON METSA, 3396, 53.96%
DAVE MEYER, 307, 4.88%
You can see Lorrie Janatopoulos had support in the southern townships, while Jason Metsa carried the Range cities. Lorrie's showing in the cities was presentable. She won Mt. Iron by one vote, but lost Virginia Eveleth and Gilbert by statistically significant amounts. The townships just didn't add up to enough to help her. DFLer Dave Meyer was a non-factor, only drawing more than 10 percent near his hometown of Aurora.
There is a strong correlation between Jeff Anderson support in the MN-8 DFL primary and Metsa support in 6B. Janatopoulos, who backed Tarryl Clark early in the campaign, did well where Clark did well.
Before the primary it seemed that Metsa was cutting the same profile and assembling the same coalitions that Carly Melin and Tony Sertich had done before him in the adjacent Range district.
Here was Melin's showing in the 2011 special election in the old 5B (now 6A):
SHELLEY ROBINSON, 1180, 29.51And Tony Sertich, Melin's predecessor, in 2000:
RAYMOND LEE PIERCE, 402, 10.05
JEFFREY "JEFF" KLETSCHER, 317, 7.93
JOHN J. SPANISH, 95, 2.38
CARLY MELIN, 2005, 50.14
ANTHONY "TONY" SERTICH, 3935, 50.65
SHARI SWANSON, 2264, 29.14
JON KROG, 468 6.02,
DENNIS "BEAR" GRUBICH, 408, 5.25
RENEE K. TOMATZ, 388, 4.99
JOHN J. SPANISH, 306, 3.94
You can see from these results that Sertich and Melin had a much more divided primary field to deal with. In that regard, Metsa did better by scoring 54 percent instead of 50. But Janatopoulos garnered more support than any Range DFL challenger running against the insider-backed candidate. (There was no DFL endorsement in 6B, but Rep. Tom Rukavina and other DFL leaders were backing Metsa).
Metsa found the winning formula with the same argument that propelled Sertich and Melin. By electing a young leader with labor backing and close relations with the previous generation, the Range has a better chance to earn seniority and turn the party over to a new generation. That's the argument. Now the argument enters practice.
On the GOP side, Jesse Colangelo cruised to a relatively easy victory. Colangelo will be an interesting test for Metsa. On paper, Metsa is favored heavily. But the Mesabi Daily News, which really owns the information flow in that district, will be dogging him hard. Colangelo is an inexperienced candidate, but has shown potential at public forums as a Cravaack-style Iron Range Republican.
In all likelihood, however, the next pair of House reps from District 6 will be these folks:
If Colangelo pulls off the upset, he's of a similar age to Metsa (though he'd be holding a Cravaack sign). Nevertheless, it's a much different picture than the stereotype of jowly old Iron Range barstool politicians. Now let's see what they do.
Stray observations: Melin's election was a special, so the turnout was lowest there. But check out the turnout difference between the regular 6B primary in 2012 and the old 5B primary in 2000. Ask Jim Oberstar what those votes -- lost to death, migration and Republicans -- meant to him in 2010.
Also, it bears mentioning that Metsa ran Melin's successful 2011 campaign, so the playbook was more than borrowed. It was very familiar to him.
Friday, August 17, 2012 By Aaron Brown
On Tuesday night, former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan won the DFL nomination for Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District. With about 38 percent of the vote, he defeated Tarryl Clark (32 percent) and Jeff Anderson (29 percent), ending an 18 month campaign that promised excitement but delivered a rather staid affair.
A few elbows were thrown near the end, but to little effect. Turnout for the district's first August primary was very low (Roughly 9 percent statewide). The three DFLers united for a rally Wednesday afternoon, all expressing a shared desire to win this nationally-watched election for the DFL.
Cravaack has now unrolled his re-election campaign in earnest, so all of this will ramp up very quickly. In fact, we'll regard this primary race as a hazy memory not so long from now. So let's divine our lessons while this is fresh.
Considering the degree to which he was outspent by Clark, Nolan won fairly handily. Some of this may certainly be attributed to the DFL endorsement and corresponding get-out-the-vote effort. But I doubt that alone would have done the job for him. Nolan received, and ended up needing, a great deal of support from his base of support in Crow Wing County and surrounding areas. He had a crushing victory there.
Conventional wisdom going into the primary was that if Anderson under-performed, Nolan would contend for the Iron Range and Duluth. Nolan did a respectable second in Duluth, but he was often drubbed along the Mesabi Range towns, finishing third. Part of that was that Rangers genuinely liked Anderson, who's from here. Then it turns out that Tarryl Clark's Steelworkers endorsement and strong ad campaign may have been more effective there than previously believed. She carried Hibbing, Nashwauk and Keewatin, even Cherry (hometown of Gus Hall, one of the original Steelworker organizers a long time ago).
Tarryl Clark got all she could out of MN-8
Clark probably hit her ceiling. Whatever the Steelworkers could get, they got. Whatever the Clinton endorsement could get her, it got. Whatever the well-produced TV ad campaign could accomplish, it did. Her decision to move from St. Cloud to Duluth to run for Congress was ultimately what did her in. One of my friend's comments on Facebook about the primary show all you need to know: "Decisions, decisions. If only Tarryl Clark was from here this would be easy." That being said, some (including me) had believed that Clark could utterly collapse when the votes were counted and that didn't happen.
What's next for Clark? Not sure. She's smart and talented. She really wants to serve in higher office, but it is her inability to mask this raw ambition that turns off voters. She's young enough to make a choice between staying in Duluth and building networks through community work or going back to St. Cloud and restarting there. But both places now have real doubts about her loyalties, so she might do best to rethink what she really wants to accomplish and wait before running for office again.
With a little more money and a wider strategy, Anderson could have won
Jeff Anderson ran on the slogan "One of us. For us." It is a statement drawn straight from an Iron Range tradition of sticking with your social and community network to draw strength in a world disinclined to do you any favors. And you don't need a lot of money to win campaigns in this environment if you have enough friends. Anderson had a lot of friends in the northern Minnesota political world helping him, which got him 29 percent despite having almost no money at all.
In looking back at the Anderson campaign, though, you can see the missed execution and opportunities. He needed more than 50 percent in St. Louis County. He got 44. He needed to win the northeastern counties. He lost several of them. Had he accomplished those goals he might well have been near 34 percent or 35 -- knocking on the door of an upset.
But what if Anderson had won more than zero votes in Deerwood? What if he got 25 percent in the south, instead of 12? He would have won. Had he the money to run ads or a message that went beyond "mining and I'm from here" he might have done better. The Sunday before the election he released a fairly pat list of his goals to help young people succeed in the district. What if he had listed a substantial set of goals earlier, and campaigned better among young voters in all corners of the district? He might then have been the "new generation" candidate he had hoped to be. Anderson may have finished third, but he was closer to winning than it appears.
Nolan got it right
Rick Nolan stepped out of retirement because he believed that there wasn't a candidate poised to win district wide who could beat Chip Cravaack. And for Nolan's flaws, his age and 1970s playbook, he really did prove to the best of the three in the primary, winning with the most homogeneous vote pattern across MN-8. Nolan proved to be an extremely talented politician and if he's able to pivot into a 21st century slug-fest he could defeat Cravaack. He needs to raise some money. And he needs to connect with independent voters, which is where his last 30 years of non-political business experience comes in very handy. But Cravaack is also talented, and this one could be a real tussle.
Since Cravaack has made no secrets about wanting to run on mining issues on the Range, Nolan has to be worried about his under-performance in places like Hibbing and Ely. Granted, he lost a lot of votes to Anderson and Clark that will come back to him, but he might have to actively win them back. But as I've said, having a base always helps. If he ends up with Jim Oberstar's totals on the Range, (ie: winning but not by large margins) he can make up the votes in Crow Wing County, where Oberstar got beat badly.
Nevertheless, Nolan's path to victory is narrow and likely tied to the presidential race. If Obama wins the 8th, so will Nolan. If Romney wins the 8th, it's likely a comfortable Cravaack win. Both outcomes are possible, and as such the district rightfully remains a tossup.
Cravaack had a good summer
Rep. Cravaack has to be pleased with all this. Nolan was probably always going to be his opponent but had to spend his money and run like hell just to get to the starting line. The DFL primary divided everyone's attention, allowing Cravaack to continue running his mobile office around and cold-calling people with his phone forums, which seem to be an effective outreach tool. And he's raised a ton of money, beginning the campaign with a 10-1 cash advantage on Nolan.
Cravaack enters the general election like the fire breathing dragon that has only a few weak scales for the silver knight to stab at. He moved his family to New Hampshire. He has a very conservative voting record for a district that leans Democratic. But he won't be out aw-shucksed or golly-geed. His chin is like a brick. He looks comfortable campaigning in almost every part of the district except for Duluth, where he tends to stick to orchestrated events among supporters.
What'd we learn?
Does a candidate have to have generational roots in Duluth or the Iron Range to win the Eighth? No. Cravaack's win in 2010 and Nolan's in the 2012 DFL primary shows that the southern portion of the district is exerting its strength and won't give that up until the Range and Duluth meet them halfway on both issues and attention.
The vestiges of power on the Range and Duluth means that the area will remain important, but is far more capable of being exploited for votes than it is in winning support for itself. Never will it be more important for this area to develop political talent to replace its loss of political clout. If the Range spirals into a one-issue region that houses just miners and retirees it will attract smoke-blowing, not lasting attention. Just look at the U.P. Just look at West Virginia. Beautiful places where locals live in decaying communities and vote for more of the same. They happen to vote Republican, but it's not about party -- it's about pride in more than the past tense.
IMAGE: Precinct map by Chris Saunders. You can see Anderson's red base on the Range, and Nolan's blue base in the southwest and along the border. Clark won many precincts, but haphazardly.
NOTE: I'll have a brief summary of the 6B primary later, also including a map.
Thursday, August 16, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Mark performs with vocalist Sima Shumlovsky, and with clarinetist Shelly Hanson. From the Twin Cities, this Klezmer Band plays the kind of music that makes the listeners tap their feet, and stand up and dance – Ethnic Eastern European Jewish/Gypsy Music – and whistle and hoot for more!
The B'nai Abraham Center is located at 328 5th Street South, the corner of 4th Avenue and 5th Street South, in Virginia, Minnesota.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Tuesday night did give the opportunity, and I hope I didn't abuse it, to talk more specifically about the challenges facing the Iron Range in coming years and how leaders of both parties could rise to address them. The tit-for-tat of these elections is actually a rather poor way to change anything, but political will is nevertheless an important ingredient in change.
I did an interview with Jennifer Austin at Northland's News Center (Channels 3 and 6 in Duluth) about the changing political dynamic on the Iron Range. I've been talking about the demographic changes going on here for some time, wrote about it in my book "Overburden." On Tuesday, I walked up to the deck of the Hawkins Mine overlook in Nashwauk, looked into a camera and this happened:
Later that night, as primary returns poured in, I did a chat for the Minnesota Public Radio "Capitol Views" blog with Michael Olson and my colleague Joel Sipress, a Duluth professor and writer for the Minnesota Progressive Project. I got to expand on the reality of the Range's situation later in the discussion. If you ever want to see what I look like during "active blog" mode, you get a sneak peak into MinnesotaBrown World Headquarters.
What needs to happen is not assured with the victory of the DFL or the GOP in major elections. That is a factor, not a fix. What needs to happen is in the control of people in our communities.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012 By Aaron Brown
It's not hunting. Though the region has a conservative streak to it, it's far from the most conservative region there is. It's something deeper than all that.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012 By Aaron Brown
11:35 -- MinnesotaBrown.com projects Jason Metsa will win State House District 6B DFL primary and Jesse Colangelo will win State House District 6B GOP primary. Metsa and Colangelo will face off in race to succeed retiring Rep. Tom Rukavina.
On a personal note, I am very proud of my friend Lorrie Janatopoulos. I have tears in my eyes thinking of her tonight, but I know she will serve the Range in countless other ways. She ran a clean, classy campaign based on deep knowledge and ideas. Congratulations to my friend Jason Metsa. This was a difficult campaign for many Range DFLers because of the close ties to both major candidates.
The House 6B race will be an interesting test of Range political trends, with many ties to the larger MN-8 race.
11:28 -- AP has 80 percent in and Nolan with 8-point lead.
MinnesotaBrown.com projects Rick Nolan to win the MN-8 DFL primary for Congress. He will face Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8) in one of the most closely watched races in the country.
11:22 -- At this point, with 70 percent in at SoS, it's looking like Rick Nolan will prevail in the MN-8 DFL primary. Many Itasca Co. precincts are out, but those were nip-and-tuck between Anderson/Nolan. No margin changes there.
11:07 -- OK, it might not get that much closer. I see much of Duluth is in the SOS mix now, as are many Range towns. Anderson didn't do as well in Duluth as he needed to. Nolan poised for win if he can hold respectable margins here on out.
10:55 -- Yeah, watch for this thing to get closer. Anderson's totals over Nolan on the Range are robust.
Balkan (North of Chisholm): Anderson 61, Clark 42, Nolan 21
Cherry (My homeland): Anderson 54, Clark 52, Nolan 21
Clinton (Where I played baseball, badly): Anderson 62, Nolan 31, Clark 28
10:49 -- The historic first-in-a-long-time GOP primary in House 6B is breaking hard for endorsed candidate Jesse Colangelo, the pro-union social conservative registered nurse. He'll defeat Dan Darbo rather easily.
10:45 -- Anderson has pulled into second place on the SOS site ahead of Clark. Nolan 38%, Anderson 31%, Clark 30%. Could tighten yet.
10:42 -- In 6B, Metsa has carried Eveleth and Gilbert. Lorrie may get votes out of the townships, but Metsa is trending in 6B. This has remained much closer than many have predicted, though.
10:29 -- I predict all three candidates will finish above 30 percent in MN-8.
10:17 -- Hey, all of this is unofficial, no absentees counted yet.
Buhl: Anderson, 59, Clark 48, Nolan 24.
10:09 -- A good time to check in with SOS totals. With 20 percent of the votes in, it's Nolan 43 percent, Clark 36, Anderson 21 percent.
Per my "What to Watch" yesterday, this is good news for Nolan. He is under-performing on the Range, but Clark won't beat him in St. Louis County, of if she does not by much. So the Range reports, Anderson's numbers increase, but Crow Wing delivers manna to Nolan.
10:07 -- My pal Max working Brainerd:
The scene at the Old Courthouse in Brainerd.
— Max Page (@AYearInBrainerd) August 15, 2012
Brainerd (14 of 64): Nolan 713, Clark 247, Anderson 104. Big numbers for Nolan in Crow Wing Co.
Hibbing P5: Anderson 91, Clark 73, Nolan 48
Hibbing P7: Anderson 22, Clark 22, Nolan 12
Hibbing Anderson, 49, Clark 47, Nolan 18
Morse: Anderson 186, Nolan 55, Clark 19
9:41 -- A little break. I'm on MPR website now!
9:34 -- Hibbing P3: Anderson 50, Clark 44, Nolan 16. Anderson and Clark nip-and-tuck in Hibbing. Nolan a nonfactor there, but turnout soooo low. Shocking, actually.
French Township (Side Lake): Anderson 60, Clark 35, Nolan 33.
9:32 -- Welcome to Ely. This is what five generations gets you:
Ely totals: Anderson 482, Nolan 98, Clark 45
— Tom Coombe (@TomCoombe8) August 15, 2012
9:24 -- Whole lot more Brainerd precincts coming. There's Nolan's solace for this:
Hibbing P1: Clark 48, Anderson 22, Nolan 16
Hibbing P9: Anderson 81, Clark 55, Nolan 33
9:21 -- Early numbers out of Brainerd. Hometown boy Nolan doing well: 73 to Clark 29 and Anderson 12. More precincts to report there. Don't have precinct breakdown in Brainerd, only raw totals.
9:18 -- We've got first showing of Metsa vs. Janatopoulos in 6B. Lorrie now leads in early numbers on SOS. Metsa camp is confident that Virginia, et. al, will put him over the top. But this one could be very close.
9:12 -- Hibbing P6: Clark 40, Anderson 29, Nolan 21. Anderson needs big win in P11 to carry Hibbing otherwise Clark may have a big Steelworkers-fueled upset there.
9:03 -- No numbers but I hear Jason Metsa carried Virginia P1 and P2, Aurora, Hoyt Lakes and tied in Mountain Iron. Lorrie Janatopoulos carred Grand Township. She now needs to match with Eveleth, Gilbert and more townships to catch up. No numbers here. Just talk from campaign types.
Also, Koochiching County is in the SOS totals and that was strong for Nolan in MN-8.
9:00 -- More random precincts
Virginia P1: Anderson 186, Clark 61, Nolan 57
Virginia P3: Anderson 91, Clark 88, Nolan 65
Grand Lake: Anderson 99, Nolan 75, Clark 56
Morris: Anderson 186, Nolan 46, Clark 17
Bottom line, Anderson is winning up north, but Clark is finishing second in the Range cities.
8:50 -- Chisholm: Anderson 252, Clark 180, Nolan 139.
Hibbing Precinct 10 (one the two biggest): Clark 113, Anderson 102, Nolan 51
Wow, Nolan is doing very poorly on the Range so far. Anderson is doing OK, still not huge margins and Clark is poised to keep it very close or even win Hibbing, where turnout was dismal.
8:44 -- First SOS precinct report: with 7 precincts (probably from the south) Nolan holding lead -- Nolan 53%, Clark 35%, Anderson 12%. That includes none of Anderson's turf, so his numbers will rise as the night goes and the others will hover or drop. That's the first good sign for Nolan tonight.
8:28 -- Another sample, Hibbing P2 (a small Hibbing precinct): Clark 15, Anderson 14, Nolan 6. Not exactly as indicative of Hibbing as a whole as Ps 10 and 11, but another surprisingly strong precinct for Clark. (UPDATE: This is pre-absentee balloting and unofficial)
8:24 -- Poll watcher in Duluth P17: Anderson 64, Nolan 58, Clark 56. As a sample, that's only OK for Anderson and surprisingly good for Clark.
8:18 -- The SOS results site for 6B is here. The MN-8 results are here. I have people in the field but it will take a little longer to gather reports from the city halls than I had hoped.
I see Tom Coombe is calling Morse Township for a 140-vote margin for Anderson. He needs to replicate that Range-wide. Morse and Ely are his base, though.
8:00 Good evening, the polls have closed! Turnout was relatively low and turnout on the Range and Duluth was similar to the district as a whole. That's early good news for Nolan and Clark. I'm hoping for some direct reports within the hour. Meantime, here's where your MN-8 DFL candidates are located this evening.
Jeff Anderson and Tarryl Clark are in Duluth. Anderson's party is at Carmody's Irish Pub on Superior Street. Clark is at the Blackwoods Bar and Grill on London. These locations are a hearty trek apart so there won't be any alley fights or baby punching.
Rick Nolan, meantime, is at the Sunshine Kitchen and Moonshine Lounge in Brainerd, closer to his home. He'll be there during the moonshine portion of the operating schedule.
Remember, we're watching the MN-8 congressional DFL primary to sort out who will challenge Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8) this fall. This race features:
- Rep. Rick Nolan, of Crosby, returning from retirement to set the nation straight.
- Former Duluth city councilor Jeff Anderson, the hometown Ely boy and Duluth professional fighting for a new generation,
- Tarryl Clark, former St. Cloud area state senator looking to make a difference in her new home city of Duluth.
I encourage you to follow my Twitter feed and Facebook page, as I may be able to throw up random, undigested information faster there. At 9:30 I'll be doing a web chat from MinnesotaBrown.com World Headquarters on MPR's website.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Our corner of the world is the Iron Range of Northern Minnesota. It's a place with a story to tell. And tonight it is a political story. The DFL party, long the dominant coalition in northern Minnesota, now seeks to nominate a candidate to challenge the man who upended conventional wisdom in 2010: U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8).
Cravaack defeated scion of the Iron Range Jim Oberstar, a 36-year veteran of the House of Representatives and national transportation issues leader. Though the election of 2012 is predicted to be extremely difficult for Cravaack he is nonetheless a formidable candidate. The general election will likely be very close and tonight's primary and aftermath will determine whether the DFL gains ground or loses.
A slightly different legislative election is happening in the heart of the Mesabi Range. Several candidates seek to replace retiring Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Pike Township) and an unpredictable DFL and GOP primary is in store there.
I'll be covering the election tonight. I have eyes and ears in the field. I'll be doing a live broadcast from my home on the MPR News website with results and analysis at 9:30 p.m., but I'm hoping to have substantial information here before then.
If you live here, don't forget to vote. There are races on the line for Democrats and Republicans. They're saying that the August primary will produce extremely low turnout. I'd like to prove them wrong. Find out where to vote with the Minnesota Secretary of State website.
Here is my recent report on House District 6B, with a follow-up here.
Here is my recent report on the MN-8 DFL race. I interviewed Rick Nolan, Jeff Anderson and Tarryl Clark for the blog and KAXE if you still haven't made up your mind.
Monday, August 13, 2012 By Aaron Brown
I need precinct results. These are normally reported through a process with the Secretary of State's office and then posted online at the SOS website. This system is remarkably good for the amount of votes that are counted across Minnesota. But the Range and Duluth are notoriously slow at reporting those results and there is often a lag in determining who wins close elections up here.
That's why I'm proposing the following: The first six people to provide substantive information in the 8 p.m. hour about local precinct results in HD-6B and/or MN-8 will receive a free, signed copy of my book "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range." I will either make the inscription out to you, portraying you as a great election night hero, swelling your pride and those of your august decedents. Or I will make it out as a gift to someone in your life, thus saving you having to buy them a present. Christmas is coming. Be ready.
I don't want random willy-nilly stuff. I'd like to know what I can count on. So if you'd like to do this, here's what I need.
- Send me an e-mail at email@example.com. Subject line: I AM A PRECINCT REPORTER
- Include your real, full name and where you are from (unless I already know you). I will recognize all individuals who help on the blog unless you indicate you wish to remain anonymous. But I need to know who you are privately if you want to receive the bounty.
- Tell me which precinct or precincts you can cover. You may cover your own precinct or one nearby that we determine to be of higher value. I am especially interested in east Range cities, Duluth precincts, Brainerd, Grand Rapids, towns *like* Cambridge or North Branch (or nearby). But I'm open to what's convenient as well.
- I'm asking you to be at the election site as the polls close so you can request the raw read-out of the precinct data. I'm interested in MN-8 (DFL) and House 6B (both DFL and GOP).
- You can then e-mail me the information immediately or, if that's not possible, I can give you my phone number via e-mail beforehand. I would like to be reporting precincts before 8:30 if at all possible.
Bonus books and random MinnesotaBrown swag (things found in my house) to those who provide fast, multiple precinct reports. There really is only one place where I can get this information: existing campaign personnel willing to mole for me. I KNOW YOU READ THIS, STAFFERS! Your anonymity will be protected and nothing will be done to harm your candidate (that isn't already being done to them by the voters, those bastards). Or if you don't want to be anonymous I'll say something extra nice about you on Twitter. For example: "@minnesotabrown: The NAME NAMEY campaign's victory/defeat can be/cannot be attributed to the sharp political work done by YOUR NAME HERE."
My publisher has OK'd a giveaway of six books, so that's all I can promise (first-come, first-served) but I will try to ensure that everyone who helps is recognized somehow.
Seriously, I am at MinnesotaBrown World Headquarters in Balsam Township. My children are all single-digits. To cover the election I need to be at my computer, but also near home. I need eyes, or the beast starves. I don't make enough money to pay people, so I will instead use the
And hey, don't forget that Overburden is a handy field guide for any politics or history-minded person about the wonderful, often confounding world of the Iron Range. It won the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award for Creative Nonfiction in 2009 and it's written in such a way as to transcend the subsequent global economic collapse. It's bust-resistent and boom-friendly, just like the Range. Seriously, if you at all enjoy the blog you'll enjoy the book more. It's funny and thoughtful and the reason I have kept up the blog.
Monday, August 13, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Editor Bill Hanna is a classic old school editorialist, evocative of early 20th century Range printer barons. I respect his verve, even when his words infuriate me. Anyway, he gets the final commentary that most 6B voters will see before voting.
We have not enjoyed the tone of [Jason] Metsa’s campaign at times, which has often reflected the “good ol’ boys” network that is evident by the many supporters who are part of the DFL Party machine on the Range. That machine can too often be smug, rude, even personally nasty and at times retaliatory. It is definitely deserving of a political wrench tossed into its gears by voters either in the primary or general election. ...
... Metsa has said he will be his own man in the Legislature should he win. We certainly hope that would be true. However, the tenor of the campaign and its distinct link to the party “machine” and its tactics certainly creates understandable doubt.
The MDN defended Lorrie Janatopoulos for what it calls unfair treatment upon the beginning of the campaign. It does not endorse her; rather offering concern that for her strong resume and personal triumphs, she depends too much on government solutions to problems, a theme in the paper's editorial philosophy of late.
Nevertheless, the editorial offer more kindness to Janatopoulos than it did to Metsa.
She is a community activist and organizer — and a good one. She has taken a leave of absence from her job as planning director at the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency to run for the House 6B seat.
Janatopoulos has a good life story of overcoming some personal hardships. As she said at a candidates’ forum last Wednesday, she knows what it’s like to be down but not out; to need a hand up to a bridge to a better life, but not handouts for a lifetime.
So she knows all too well the importance of government in providing a safety net for those who are truly in need. And that should definitely be part of government’s mission.
But if a legislator’s philosophy revolves completely around government being the beginning and end of all issues; being the answer to all concerns; being the catalyst for spending out of control — well, then government becomes far too expansive, too expensive and too unrestricted.
The MDN reserved mostly praise for the GOP candidates Jesse Colangelo and Dan Darbo, primarily that they are both articulate, qualified candidates on the Republican even as the district has been less competitive for Republicans in the past. It's clear that the MDN believes their ascent is good for the region.
All the candidates in all the parties are 100 percent for nonferrous mineral mining in northeastern Minnesota. The MDN likes that; also offering inoculation against any attempts by one campaign to "out-mine" the others.
I'll say one thing. Bill sure took all the whispers in this campaign and put them out there for people to hear. I encourage you to read it.
UPDATE: MPR's Dan Kraker has a story on the air today about this race. I offer some color commentary in this one. The point I was making in the story is not that any of the candidates are against mining, just that in the minds of some, there is a shadow primary based on the kind of rhetoric you're willing to use regarding mining. A similar dynamic has formed in the MN-8 race.
Monday, August 13, 2012 By Aaron Brown
I cannot rule out any of the three current candidates to win Tuesday's primary, nor can I guarantee that any of them is a sure thing against Cravaack, who has run a steady, well-financed campaign and appears ready for the sprint to November. I do think there are likely outcomes that could become evident early in the ballot counting tomorrow night. The DFL badly needs a clean winner to start the general election or this goes from a TOSSUP to LEAN-GOP in a hurry.
Below I've described the path to victory that Jeff Anderson, Tarryl Clark and Rick Nolan might follow should they be successful on Tuesday. The trend will probably set up early in the night, but there is a chance we could go late into the night to know the winner.
Jeff Anderson is the long-shot. His campaign has been just plain-old broke most of the time. I'm not ruling him out, however, because he has followed a unique high risk/high reward strategy.
Anderson has focused his campaign on his deep roots in the district (born and raised in Ely, lives in Duluth) and spent most of his energy winning votes in the northeastern section of the district, the traditional Iron Range and Duluth region. Though this northeastern area only represents about half the total district, it reflects about 60 percent of DFL primary votes. If Anderson dominates this region and picks up a little more elsewhere he has a chance to eke out a win.
Anderson has one of those "good on paper" narratives that nevertheless failed to elevate him to front-runner status. He is hoping that the traditional politicking of MN-8 -- personal relationships, hometown pride and "sticking with the guy you know" -- comes through to beat his better financed opponents. His dogged focus on expediting new mining in the region will be a good test of that issue's potency both now and in the general.
I wouldn't bet on Anderson to win, but a bet to show would be a money bet if this were horse racing. Which it is not. Point is, if Anderson pulls just 1/3 of the Range and Duluth, he's still at no less than 20 percent. Anderson's ceiling is lower than his opponents, but there is room for a win up there in the rafters. An Anderson win might not be the most likely outcome, but if he over-performs he could be a contender for this office in the future. A victory would be an upset akin to, well, Jim Oberstar losing an election.
Tarryl Clark has raised and spent the most money by far and we really don't know what that will mean. Will people be swayed by the name recognition that comes from her ads and previous run against Michele Bachmann in a different district? Well, maybe. If they do, Clark will do well. But Clark also has the baggage of moving from MN-6 to MN-8 to make this run and voters could summarily reject her just as easily as they could embrace her.
One thing in Clark's favor is that she's probably done as much on phone and voter contact as the DFL party has done on their endorsed candidate's behalf. So that, combined with the ads, puts Clark out there as a sort of monolith -- a force that could either dominate the race or stand quietly in the background.
One thing to worry about for Clark, though, is a question that I've mulled many times over. Where is her base? Where is the region where she leads by enough of a margin that people there tell all their neighbors that she's the sure thing? One could argue that she would do well in the southern part of the district, but that same area could be claimed by Nolan as well. She has Steelworker backing, but I can't imagine her beating Anderson or Nolan on the Range. That leaves Duluth, where Anderson handily won a citywide election five years ago.
Clark has a real chance to win, I think. But her reality is that she could also finish third if the votes just don't materialize. If she does win, it will show that the more parochial, homegrown political network of the region's history is largely powerless. If she loses, it will show an epic miscalculation on her part.
Rick Nolan has the DFL endorsement, the endorsement of former Rep. Jim Oberstar, who narrowly lost to Cravaack in 2010, and support from Minnesota's DFL Congressional Delegation and Gov. Mark Dayton. He has the support of local DFL party units, who have been doing the heavy lifting on his behalf these last few weeks. And the state DFL kicked in a fair amount of money running ads on his behalf, an effort that has kept him on the airwaves next to Clark's blitz.
What to make of Nolan? Until 18 months ago I hadn't considered him as a candidate. He was a Congressman before I was born. Yes, he was young then, but that was still 32 years ago. His campaign has clearly shown that he's a smart, engaging candidate, just one that seems oriented around a bygone style of politics that reminds one much more of Oberstar than of Cravaack. Considering that Cravaack beat Oberstar, that's something that could worry some DFLers. But considering that presidential years are different, with higher voter turnout and no national wave predicted one way or the other, he could also then be considered a slight favorite.
One thing he's got is a lock on the Brainerd and Cuyuna Range region in the district's southwest corner. He's very popular there. He has support on the Range and in Duluth and, if Anderson under-performs, he could snatch wins there. Fundamentally, Nolan is the "comfortable" candidate for a lot of MN-8 DFLers, and this might be a year where that is rewarded.
Nolan is probably the favorite going into tomorrow's vote, if only because he's likely the only candidate capable of breaking out of the three-way pack for a dominant win. But if DFL primary voters on the Range decide to follow Anderson on mining issues and voters in the south go for Clark, he could find himself in a battle.
What to watch
Real simple, actually. Watch Duluth. If Anderson isn't winning precincts in Duluth early he's toast. He actually needs to win them by a healthy margin. Whoever is in third in Duluth is probably toast, too, though Clark might have the tiniest amount of wiggle room there, so long as Anderson beats Nolan.
After that, watch a couple Range precincts. Chisholm. Maybe Aurora. Anderson needs to win those. If Nolan is close or ahead, it's all Nolan. If Clark is doing anything at all on the Range, watch for her.
Then look down to the south. Cambridge. Braham. North Branch. Clark needs to win these. If Nolan wins them, it's all Nolan.
A Clark win would probably show up at nightfall with better-than-expected early returns. An Anderson win would come late with slow-reporting Range precincts sending him across the finish line. But really, we'll know what kind of election night we have when we find out whether or not Nolan is leading after the early returns come in. If Nolan takes the lead early, he might keep it all night. If he's down, he has to hope the Range breaks his way.
I've avoided formally endorsing a candidate in this race. I'll go vote at the hall tomorrow and who knows what I might do? I will follow the race here on the blog, on the Facebook page and @minnesotabrown Tuesday night. I'll also be following the House 6B primary, for those who like their Range politics straight up without a mixer.
- Two more endorsements late last week. St. Louis County Commissioner Steve O'Neil announced for Nolan. Commissioner Mike Forsman endorsed Anderson.
- On Sunday, Anderson announced his 10-point plan for creating stronger opportunities for young professionals in MN-8. Heavy focus on education.
- A photo on her Facebook wall shows that not only has Clark been campaigning hard, but the weekend brought her 17th visit to a MN-8 quilting shop -- and in my fair home region of Iron, MN of all places! We'll see if she can knit together a winning coalition tomorrow night.
Sunday, August 12, 2012 By Aaron Brown
... Chisholm native DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar lost his seat in 2010 after 18 terms not so much because his Range neighbors abandoned him, but because there weren't enough of them to counter the Republican wave that swept the rest of the district.
Some DFL loyalists want to believe that Cravaack's defeat of Oberstar was a one-off, isolated episode related to Oberstar's neglect of his home base and a GOP national wave. They expect the district to revert to DFL dependability this year, regardless of who wins the three-way primary contest Tuesday.
That would be the thinking of people who turn a blind eye toward the empty seats at Range graduations and gatherings. Demographically savvy DFL primary voters are thinking differently.
Sunday, August 12, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Mark Zdechlik at Minnesota Public Radio put together a comprehensive review. I'd recommend reading or listening to that. I was honored to be a part of that story, though my sound bite is really most valuable as a Scrabble play than it is for fresh insight. MPR's Colin Campbell also has a story about the horse race, including a look ahead to the general election.
Tony Petrangelo at LeftMN offers up a quick numbers review. I see the race very similarly.
Nolan seems to have the edge, but that’s only because both Clark and Anderson’s paths to victory involve the other two candidates splitting the vote enough for 38%-35% to be enough.Joel at the Minnesota Progressive Project provides a miniature history of the race while also concisely explaining some of the race dynamics. I agree with his conclusion:
Conventional wisdom is that Nolan is poised for victory, but with no polling data publicly released it is hard to know the true state of the race. The key place to watch on election night is St. Louis County. If Nolan is either close to or ahead of Anderson in Duluth and the Range, it is all over. If Anderson can win St. Louis County big, then perhaps Clark sneaks through. If Anderson wins St. Louis County in a landslide, then perhaps he can pull off the miracle upset of our times.I will explain more about my "what to watch" tomorrow. I would add that there is a way for St. Louis County to be neutralized but that this might benefit Nolan as much or more than Clark. The million dollar (Well, about $750,000) question is whether for all her spending Clark brings some votes to the polls on Tuesday.
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.