Our View / Endorsement: Radinovich emerges even stronger

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How unfortunate that Joe Radinovich found himself caught up in the bombshell news stories last month over the rehiring of a former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan staffer who had been credibly accused of sexual harassment.

Although Radinovich, a candidate to replace Nolan, was able to answer for his role related to the rehiring — he acted decisively and appropriately as Nolan's campaign manager, an assessment echoed by even the victims — the possibility of guilt by association would have been unfortunate at the least and politically derailing at worst for Radinovich.

To Radinovich's credit, he emerged from the scandal instead, and he is an even stronger candidate now in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District. This after he already had been the most knowledgeable, best prepared, and most experienced in a field of five strong DFL hopefuls.

Voters from the DFL in the Aug. 14 primary can pick Radinovich to advance to the Nov. 6 general election to face a tough Republican opponent in Pete Stauber, a former Duluth police officer and current St. Louis County Board member. The Independence Party's Ray "Skip" Sandman also is running once again for the seat.

It was Radinovich who urged Nolan to fire Jim Swiderski from Nolan's 2016 election campaign immediately after learning about the allegations of harassment and repeated groping. This was after Swiderski had been allowed, the year before, to resign from Nolan's congressional staff rather than face discipline. Nolan then brought Swiderski back to work from home for Nolan's re-election.

"The more the facts become apparent about how this all happened, I think it'll reflect well on my actions and the decisive nature of them. When I was made aware, I did exactly as I should have," Radinovich said in a candidate-screening interview with members of the News Tribune Editorial Board.

"(Swiderski) shouldn't have been hired on to the campaign to begin with, and I dealt with that immediately and decisively and in a way that was to the satisfaction of the women involved," Radinovich said. "I said we have to fire him. ... I did it at the McDonald's in Elk River. It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life."

Radinovich first got into politics in the eighth grade — the grassroots protesting and community-organizing side of politics — when budget cuts were threatened by his Crosby-Ironton Independent School District.

His fight for funding for education in rural districts continued in 2012 when he was elected to the Minnesota Legislature. He was unelected just two years later after he supported marriage equality, which a majority of his district then opposed.

Radinovich also has worked for the American Federation of Government Employees; for rural broadband, downtown revitalization, and arts and culture as assistant commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board; and for Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

Radinovich said there's an abundance of economic opportunity on the Iron Range, despite the reality that technology and mechanization are reducing the need for workers. For example, in 1980, in round numbers, 14,500 miners on the Iron Range produced 40 million tons of iron ore. Production remains at about 40 million tons but with only 4,000 miners now. Radinovich vowed to advocate always for working Minnesotans and working Americans.

"We have to have a vision for the future," he said, listing as parts of his vision expanded broadband, more-affordable child care, and more federal investments in infrastructure and in technical colleges to help fill the good-paying blue-collar jobs that currently are in high demand.

On copper-nickel mining: "I support a process to evaluate these projects. I think they can be done safely," he said. "Then companies (need to be) held accountable to the plans they've laid out and that have been approved ... in the regulatory process."

On Enbridge's proposed Line 3 Replacement Project: "A new pipeline is safer than an old pipeline," Radinovich said. "We need to move away from fossil fuels, but we're going to have a transition period, and oil isn't only used for gasoline. It's used for any number of different products, and so it's going to continue to be around for a number of years."

Other DFLers in the Aug. 14 primary are North Branch Mayor Kirsten Kennedy; former TV news anchor Michelle Lee of Moose Lake; Minnesota House District 6B Rep. Jason Metsa of Virginia; and Soren Christian Sorensen, a blogger and self-described "citizen journalist" who lives near Bemidji.

In a strong DFL field, Radinovich is the one who has kept on getting stronger.

ABOUT THIS ENDORSEMENT

This endorsement editorial was determined entirely by the Duluth News Tribune Editorial Board. The members of the board are Publisher Neal Ronquist, Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick, employee representative Kris Vereecken and citizen representative Julene Boe.