This Saturday at 9 a.m., DFL delegates from Minnesota's Eight Congressional District will hold their biannual convention at the Nashwauk Rec Center on the western Mesabi Iron Range. U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL-MN8) is unopposed in seeking endorsement for re-election.
Normally, a convention like this would be a sleepy affair; simple business mixed with the usual glad-handing and hairsplitting. But Democrats have at least two major sources of unpleasant drama to watch out for this weekend.
First of all, the convention has become a logistical nightmare. For months the event was scheduled to be held at the Timber Lake Lodge in Grand Rapids, a major hotel and convention center. But threats by some delegates and labor organizations to picket the Timber Lake, which was built using non-union labor about a decade ago, prompted a harried last minute change of venue to the hall in Nashwauk.
So there's that. But the other big challenge facing DFL organizers is the massive fissure in the party over the issue of nonferrous mining in northeastern Minnesota. Iron Range delegates overwhelmingly support these projects, but many elsewhere in the 8th, especially in the district's largest city of Duluth, are much more skeptical, if not downright opposed.
Will a resolution opposing new mining emerge at this convention? Will it be debated and voted upon? No doubt, DFL officers would prefer not. But emotions will run hot, and depending on who shows up to the altered convention site anything could happen.
Any such debate, however, will only be a precursor to what will be a huge debate about the mining issue at the Minnesota DFL convention which begins May 30. As I've written many times before, the DFL has to face this music because its coalition includes both environmentalists and miners. Republicans have the luxury of not needing to pay any lip service to environmental regulations whatsoever, a fact the GOP will certainly seek to exploit this fall.
The fate of mining projects has more to do with lawsuits and corporate financing at this point; but vast political resources will be expended suggesting otherwise, in a breathless quest for a few thousand votes on the Iron Range.
ASIDE: In other Iron Range political news, former State Rep. Tom Rukavina is reportedly considering jumping into local Iron Range politics again, in a race that could also hinge on the mining issue.