A state agency has ruled that St. Louis County should hand over e-mails requested by the Star Tribune in a public records case with implications for the upcoming election.

The Star Tribune in March sought e-mail correspondence between Pete Stauber, a St. Louis County commissioner and Republican candidate for Congress, and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC.) Stauber is running in northeastern Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District against Democrat Joe Radinovich.

St. Louis County confirmed the existence of the e-mails, which were sent to and from Stauber’s county e-mail address, but declined to provide the e-mails.

In a nonbinding advisory opinion signed by state Administration Commissioner Matthew Massman, the agency ruled that “If the e-mails are correspondence between County Commissioner Stauber and a representative of the NRCC, the data are public and the county did not respond appropriately to the Star Tribune’s request under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 13.”

Dana Kazel, a spokeswoman for St. Louis County, said the county has “received a copy of the Department of Administration’s advisory opinion and are reviewing it as we consider our next steps. Beyond that, we have no further comment.”

Caroline Tarwid, a Stauber spokeswoman, said, “(Stauber) continues to blanket the 18-county district meeting and visiting with as many voters as he can.” Stauber is allowed to voluntarily disclose the correspondence, but he has not responded to requests to do so.

Jordan Hagert, Radinovich’s campaign manager, released a statement charging Stauber with “wasting official resources and our taxpayer dollars to strategize with Washington special interests and was caught, red handed.”

Tarwid also mocked Radinovich for losing support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC.) The NRCC sent out an e-mail Tuesday from a firm called Advertising Analytics showing the DCCC moved more than $1 million in planned advertising spending from the Eighth Congressional District to Minnesota’s First and Second Districts.

Republican groups have been pounding Radinovich in TV ads, citing his history of driving violations and an arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia in 2005, when he was 18.

A recent New York Times poll showed Stauber opening up a wide lead over Radinovich, but Radinovich’s campaign criticized the poll’s methodology and said the results do not reflect reality.

Republicans need to limit their net losses to 23 seats to retain control of the U.S. House. Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who is retiring, currently represents the Eighth, which is considered one of the Republicans’ best pickup opportunities in the entire country.