In an age of political polarization, examples of comity tend to stand out. For freshman U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., that has its advantages.
Barely a year after wresting away control of northern Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District, long a Democratic stronghold, Stauber has garnered enough support in the district that experts at the Cook Political Report have graded the district as “likely Republican” in 2020.
Though not afraid to throw his support behind President Donald Trump and his causes, Stauber hasn’t earned the distinction by being a firebrand. The former Duluth police officer has forged relationships with fellow freshmen lawmakers on the other side of the aisle, particularly Minnesota Reps. Angie Craig and Dean Phillips, both moderate Democrats from swing districts in the Twin Cities suburbs.
“I don’t believe any political party has the monopoly on good ideas,” Stauber said in a recent interview.
Stauber has been able to get two pieces of legislation involving small businesses and aviation to pass the Democratic-controlled House during one of the more bitterly partisan Congresses in recent memory.
He struck common ground with Craig on a train ride together during a freshman orientation in Washington. They discovered each were parents of special needs children and have since introduced legislation to require the federal government to pay 40% of costs of special education to school districts — as promised in the original federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Stauber and Phillips also are members of the House “problem solvers caucus,” which seeks to pinpoint nonpartisan measures to bring to the House floor. Their respective staffs met for a “depolarization” workshop facilitated by the nonprofit Better Angels. Still, don’t look for Stauber to be a maverick on issues like impeachment. When asked if any of the marathon impeachment inquiry testimony swayed him, he said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi failed to produce a case she previously said needed to be “compelling, overwhelming and bipartisan.”
Even as senior lawmakers struck deals on a trade pact and a spending package to avert a government shutdown, Stauber said Washington’s focus on impeachment was stealing oxygen from issues like military spending and transportation and infrastructure.
Drug affordability advocate Quinn Nystrom emerged recently to challenge Stauber in 2020. She has won the endorsement of Stauber’s predecessor, DFLer Rick Nolan, and is lobbing shots at Stauber for opposing a House bill that she says would lower drug costs.
Stauber was unwilling to discuss Nystrom before 2020. But he penned an op-ed last week criticizing Democrats for blocking an amendment to the drug pricing bill he offered — accusing them of making it a partisan issue.
Nystrom followed up: “Time 4 a rep who will actually take this issue seriously,” a missive that may preview the fight for the Eighth next year.