Pragmatic Minnesotans in the Eighth Congressional District should hope Republican Pete Stauber, if elected, is fully committed to a philosophy he shared recently with the Star Tribune Editorial Board: “We don’t need a red playbook or a blue playbook.”
Stauber isn’t running away from President Donald Trump, who won the district by 15 points in 2016. But the retired Duluth police officer, St. Louis County Board member and resident of Hermantown is also aware of the deep union history in the 28,000-square-mile district that includes the Iron Range, Lake Superior’s North Shore and the city he once patrolled in a squad car.
It’s a district that Democrats have controlled for 70 of the past 72 years. Yet many longtime Democrats — as in other economically challenged parts of the Midwest — felt the party had ignored them, and they cast their 2016 votes for Trump while Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan barely won re-election. Nolan’s decision not to run again left the seat open, and Stauber’s deep roots and experience in the district make him the Editorial Board’s endorsement pick over promising Democrat Joe Radinovich.
In Minnesota, especially the north, the Stauber name is synonymous with hockey. Pete, 52, played in college and professionally, and his brother Robb starred for the Gophers and coached the 2018 women’s Olympic team to a gold medal, as well as playing in the NHL.
Pete Stauber has a deep understanding of the critical issues facing the mostly rural Eighth District, which also covers the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the northern Twin Cities exurbs.
Stauber is pro-mining and backs Enbridge Line 3 but also says the regulatory process must be followed. He would not have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and, in part because he’s the father of a son with Down syndrome, believes Americans with pre-existing conditions must have access to affordable health care.
Stauber is harder to pin down on strategies to address gun violence. He’s a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, as is Radinovich, and seems to be open to red flag laws and improved background checks. His law enforcement experience and belief in compassionate policing would be valuable in Congress.
Radinovich, 32, grew up in Crosby in a family of miners, electricians and health care workers. He also supports mining projects that pass full regulatory review, but he’s concerned about Trump administration trade policies that pit miners against farmers. Both candidates understand the threat posed by climate change and the importance of legal immigration. Radinovich wants to expand health care coverage, but he needs to offer more detailed, practical steps than his idealistic single-payer plan.
Character has also been an issue in the race. The Republican Congressional Leadership Fund attacked Radinovich over some admittedly irresponsible but less than disqualifying traffic violations, as well as a pot paraphernalia charge when the Democrat was 18. And Stauber is guilty of careless but less than invalidating politicking while using his St. Louis County e-mail account.
In a more valid test of character, as a state House member in 2013 Radinovich cast a vote for marriage equality even though he knew it would be politically damaging. His life story is a testament to resilience in the face of challenges, and we hope to see more from him in the future.
For his part, Stauber has devoted much of his career to public service — all of it in the Eighth District — and has shown a practical streak. It’s that experience, along with his pledge to do what’s right for the district regardless of party politics, that made him the Editorial Board’s choice.