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Metsa joins field seeking DFL endorsement in 8th District race

State Rep. Jason Metsa (submitted photo)

It wasn’t the only factor, but “a nudge” from the congressman he will vie to replace helped Jason Metsa decide to run for the 8th Congressional District’s open seat.

Metsa, a three-term state representative from Virginia, announced Thursday that he will seek the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement for the 8th District seat. He joins four other DFL candidates among those trying to replace incumbent Rep. Rick Nolan, who announced his retirement in February.

“Essentially it was after talking to my wife and family and friends — and getting a nudge from Congressman Nolan to strongly consider it,” Metsa said. “We thought it was a good time to take that step and try to be a part of making a difference.”

Other DFL candidates vying for the endorsement include Leah Phifer of Isanti, Joe Radinovich of Crosby, Michelle Lee of Moose Lake and Kirsten Hagen Kennedy of North Branch. Pete Stauber of Hermantown is so far the lone Republican candidate running for the seat. The Independence Party’s Ray “Skip” Sandman, of Duluth, is also running.

In pulling out of the race earlier this week, Nolan’s aide in Duluth, Jeff Anderson, publicly encouraged Metsa to run, noting traits he shared with Nolan.

Metsa acknowledged those similarities in an interview with the News Tribune on Thursday, saying, “We think about what people want and need.”

“We align on a lot of issues,” Metsa continued. “Health care being affordable; investing in public schools versus giving out vouchers; expanding agricultural opportunities in the 8th which has a lot of small family farms that could use different programs and ideas to make themselves grow. Overall, we’re going to be in the race to fight for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, making sure (House Speaker) Paul Ryan and the current House agenda doesn’t mess around with those.”

Metsa had weighed seeking the DFL endorsement since the Nolan retirement announcement in early February. Metsa, 37, and his wife, Amanda, are parents to a 1-year-old son, Josiah.

Metsa acknowledged life changes would need to be made to run for Congress, and that he wasn’t in a rush to join the race while he weighed what was right for his family.

“I needed a few more days, a couple more weeks (than others) to step back and take a look if this was right for me and my family,” he said.  

When asked about mining expansion, a hot-button topic in the upcoming election, Metsa seemed to align again with Nolan, who had received growing criticism from environmentalists in the DFL for his increasing legislative support of proposed copper-nickel mining in northern Minnesota.

“I represent the most mining-centric district in the country on a state house level, and Congressman Nolan represents the most mining-centric congressional district,” Metsa said. “We’ve got strong standards to meet here in Minnesota, whether you’re a family farm or a mining company or another business that needs a permit. If you can meet our standards here, you should be able to do business here.”

The 8th Congressional District DFL Party’s endorsement convention will be April 14 at the Holiday Inn in downtown Duluth. A primary election in the DFL, if necessary, will be held Aug. 14.

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