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Sleepless night finds Stauber feeling humbled, focused on moving into Congress

Sitting in his campaign headquarters Wednesday, congressman-elect Pete Stauber talks about his plans after he takes his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com1 / 3
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A Pete Stauber quote written on a whiteboard in his campaign headquarters. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com3 / 3

For Pete Stauber, the morning after his election to Congress came before sleep did.

"I haven't slept all night," Stauber said Wednesday afternoon. "We didn't get to bed until 3 a.m., and I laid around, got back up and actually had a campaign staff meeting in the morning."

The transition from candidate to congressman has already started, the 52-year-old Stauber said at his hometown headquarters in Hermantown.

"We're up and running and we're moving forward," he said, adding that he expected to have a conversation with retiring Rep. Rick Nolan, DFL-Crosby, later in the week. Stauber wants to know about legislation Nolan is working on.

Call it the first bipartisan engagement for Stauber, who will be sworn in to a Democratically controlled House of Representatives in January.

"He and I have a cordial relationship," Stauber said of Nolan. "I truly believe when you build relationships and don't care who gets credit, we can do great things for this country. I want to lead by example and be that bipartisan congress member who, I hope, can earn the trust of citizens."

In Washington, D.C., Stauber won't wait to cross the aisle, identifying a congressional weight room he's been told about "where there's good common bonding," he said.

"I'm going to them," he said of Democrats in Congress. "I want to build those relationships."

Inside the results

The Tuesday midterm elections saw the nation and its House flip one way, toward the Democrats, and Minnesota's 8th District flip the other, toward the Republican Stauber.

Stauber won pretty much everywhere except the Iron Range and Duluth. All told across the 806 precincts, Stauber topped Democrat Joe Radinovich, 51 to 45 percent, with a gap of some 17,400 votes, 159,388 to 141,972.

Stauber held the same 14 counties that President Donald Trump won in the 18-county 8th District during the 2016 election. Radinovich won the others — St. Louis, Carlton, Cook and Lake counties. Stauber claimed some of the district's western and southern counties with more than 60 percent of the votes. He was able to overcome being wholloped in and around Duluth, where Radinovich was strongest, out-totaling Stauber by 17,301 votes in the Duluth area's state legislative districts 7A, 7B and 3B — 37,142 to 19,841.

Radinovich called Stauber on Wednesday morning to congratulate him. But the Radinovich campaign remained testy, saying in a news release that billionaires bought the election for Stauber by funding incessant attack ads.

"This election result makes clear the damage that outside money from billionaires is having on our democracy," said Jordan Hagert, the Radinovich campaign manager in a day-after news release.

Stauber wasn't biting on the criticism. He kept his focus on the spoils of reaching a seat at the federal government.

"I'm just looking forward," he said. "It's a privilege and an honor to be here and that the voters trusted me to work on their behalf in Congress. I'm just excited to do that. I'm excited to be successful on behalf of the 8th District."

What's next?

Stauber will spend the coming days and weeks putting together an office staff, among other things.

Legislatively thinking, he's eager to focus on issues that drive the economy — especially legislation that helps small businesses across the district and nation.

"We know that small businesses are the economic engine of our communities and our economy," he said.

His throat sore and mind weary from the highs and lows of a sleepless night on top of a 17-month campaign, Stauber said he was ready to catch up on his sleep — if only for a day.

"This is humbling and, in some respects, it's kind of surreal to be in this position," Stauber said. "But the work starts today on behalf of the citizens and I'm not waiting. I'm going to get up to speed as best I can. I'm just humbled beyond imagination."

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