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Continued: In U.S. Senate race, mining takes center stage on Range

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 23, 2014 - 9:59 PM

Metsa called PolyMet “a big issue, but not the only issue.”

“The rhetoric about mining being the only issue up here is far from the truth,” Metsa said, adding that Franken’s track record among Rangers is solid. He backed a bill requiring the use of U.S. steel in building Keystone XL unless it increased the cost of the project by more than 25 percent. It’s votes like that, he said, that will safely give Franken the 51 percent he needs — as long as voters turn out.

In 2008, Franken edge

At St. Louis County’s Republican Headquarters in Virginia, Chair Ron Britton wears an LTV jacket embroidered with the United Steelworkers logo. A retired laborer, he said blind union allegiance to Democratic causes will result in backlash because of environmental regulations placed on the mines.

“Every time you turn around somebody is going to move us out of here,” Britton said. “This could be the area that makes or breaks us. We know it’s a big thing. We also know the regulations not only on Polymet, but on all the other mines, is going to kill mining.”

Sixty miles south, at the Duluth AFL-CIO offices, President Dan O’Neill watched as two dozen union members from throughout northeast Minnesota finished “campaign school,” a daylong class training them how to get their candidates elected. The visceral reaction of union members to McFadden’s steel comments isn’t simply political, he said.

“You want to buy cheap steel? There are jobs that are gonna be lost because of it,” he said. “Who in their right minds would think like that when you’re going to try to represent all of your constituents in the state of Minnesota? To me, that’s a crazy thought.”

As much as he may disagree with McFadden, O’Neill isn’t ignoring his chances.

“It’s not a shoo-in anymore. We don’t take anything for granted.”


Abby Simons • 651-925-5043


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  • Bruce Richardson, vice president of corporate communications for PolyMet, strolled through one of the buildings at the old LTV site in Hoyt Lakes.

  • McFadden:“We are standing at the doorstep of a new era on the Iron Range, and we need our regulators to work with these companies to bring jobs. ...”GOP Senate candidate Mike McFadden

  • PolyMet would use the mothballed LTV site near Hoyt Lakes, Minn., as part of its copper-nickel mining quest — a hot issue in the U.S. Senate race.

  • Franken: “I think virtually everyone in this state would like to see those jobs ... but only if we can protect the water. I think we can do both.”

  • Lawn signs planted at a sign welcoming visitors to Aurora tell of what’s on people’s minds.

  • Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, thought Sen. Al Franken had a good chance of winning in the 8th district.

  • Ron Britton, chair of the St. Louis County Republican Party, at his office in Virginia: “This could be the area that makes or breaks us.”

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