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Stauber confident after 17 months of campaigning, but Radinovich expects an Election Day surprise

From left: Joe Radinovich, Pete Stauber and Ray "Skip" Sandman

A feverish contest for the open seat in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District tops the list of races locally to be decided in Tuesday's midterm elections.

Republican Pete Stauber and Democrat Joe Radinovich are vying, along with Independence Party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman, to replace retiring two-time incumbent Rep. Rick Nolan.

"Over the last 17 months on the campaign trail we have been to every corner of the district to meet voters of all walks of life," Stauber, 52, said in a statement to the News Tribune. "My blue-collar, common-sense conservative message has resonated throughout the district. As we finish up the final push, I am very thankful for all the support we have received throughout this election cycle."

Stauber and Radinovich were packing in campaign stops across the Northland, including events throughout Election Day. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"We're working hard and we're getting tired, but I'm optimistic," Radinovich, 32, said. "We've seen a lot of momentum and seen a lot of people fired up. I like what we're seeing back, and there's a good chance people might be surprised."

Both candidates will be surrounded by supporters at election night watch parties — Stauber at Black Woods Grill & Bar in Proctor, and Radinovich at Arrowwood Lodge outside Brainerd.

The 8th District race has drawn national attention, most of it casting Stauber as the unusual Republican who seemed favored, based on limited polling, to flip a district during a midterm election expected to be a referendum on President Donald Trump.

The district has gone Republican only once in 70 years (in 2010). But a Donald Trump rally in June in Duluth and Stauber's background as a retired Duluth police officer, small-business owner, county commissioner and championship hockey player earned him a glowing profile in the GOP and nationally.

The 8th District race had funneled $12.2 million based on a federal money check in late October. Most of it, roughly $8 million, was spent by outside groups on negative attack ads. Radinovich, in particular, paid a heavy price in the ads for a history of traffic violations, unpaid parking tickets, and a dismissed marijuana paraphernalia charge as an 18-year-old. Stauber's secret county emails with the National Republican Congressional Campaign also drew heat. A court order released the emails, which showed little of consequence.

On Monday, the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office said more than half-a-million votes have already been cast on absentee and early voting ballots. The number, 539,806, is more than double the total of ballots cast in the 2014 midterm. Many take that as a sign of high voter turnout to come Tuesday.

In addition to the 8th District, voters locally will be weighing in on two U.S. Senate races, state races for governor and attorney general and a litany of local races and ballot questions, including a referendum to supplement school district funding in Duluth.

Find your polling place

Minnesota offers same-day voter registration. To find your polling place, visit the Minnesota Secretary of State's polling finder at pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

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