8th District candidates make push for votes

Just one week before they square off in the Aug. 14 primary, three DFL candidates for the 8th District congressional seat did their best to sway voters at a Tuesday morning forum organized by the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.

Rick Nolan
Rick Nolan (2011 file / News Tribune)

Just one week before they square off in the Aug. 14 primary, three DFL candidates for the 8th District congressional seat did their best to sway voters at a Tuesday morning forum organized by the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.

Candidates Tarryl Clark, Jeff Anderson and Rick Nolan all tailored their messages for the largely business-oriented crowd. The winner of next week's primary will face Republican incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack.

Former Duluth City Councilor Anderson reflected on growing up as a fourth-generation Iron Ranger in Ely and surviving tough times when his father lost his job at Minntac, Minnesota's largest mine, in the early 1980s. He said his family made it through nevertheless, sometimes leaning on public assistance, including food stamps. But many others left the region.

Anderson said he decided to run for Congress in hopes of strengthening the economy and helping Northeastern Minnesota grow, rather than shrink as it has before in difficult times.

"I think government can be a partner with our communities and a partner with business, and we can work together, especially to keep people in our communities," he said. "I've seen too many people having to leave northern Minnesota, whether it's the Iron Range, whether it's Duluth or other areas. I want to continue to work to make sure that doesn't have to happen, that we have opportunities here."


Candidate and former congressman Nolan stressed his 30 years of business experience, and his own heritage as a fourth-generation Iron Ranger, from the Cuyuna Range.

"I bought a sawmill and a pallet factory that was going out of business and turned it around," he said. "I turned that into a successful enterprise that my children own today, and they're doing very well with it. In fact, they send me a check every now and then, which is quite nice."

Nolan suggested his business background would serve him well if re-elected to Congress.

"I'm a businessman. I know what it's like to sign on the line for all your assets, to go to the bank and borrow much more money than you ever dreamed you would have access to, and then to balance a budget and meet a payroll and figure out where you need to invest more money because you're getting a good return, as well as where you need to cut spending, because you're not getting a good return," he said. "That all relates to government and politics, too."

Clark recently moved to Duluth from Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, where she unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Michele Bachmann two years ago. She said her experience working with communities throughout northern Minnesota should serve her well.

"I am the only one in this race who has worked throughout the whole region. It is a vast district, all the way down from just north of Forest Lake to International Falls, where I started my day yesterday," Clark told the crowd Tuesday.

If elected, Clark said she'd push for policies that would create more jobs in the 8th District.

"We can't be doing things that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas. Instead, we need to have incentives for companies to build right here, locally," she said.


All three candidates talked about the need for additional investments in transportation infrastructure.

Clark likened the current opportunity to "a triple-coupon moment," noting recent low interest rates, the relatively low cost of supplies and the need to get people back to work in a weak economy.

Warning that the nation had reached "a precipice," Clark called for action.

"I think our democracy, in all honesty, is at stake," she said. "But we are the antidote to that. We are the ones who can change things."

Anderson underscored the importance of capitalizing on what the region has to offer.

"For me, this election is about the future of northern Minnesota. It's about jobs and the economy. It's about investing in our natural resource-based economy: mining and timber and things that will put people to work today," he said.

Nolan talked about wanting to restore the faith of earlier generations, even in humble times.

"Like Jeff and like so many people here, none of us grew up with any money to speak of, but we had good homes. We had good communities. We had good schools. The house I grew up in was sold recently for $26,000. I've got friends now who paid more than that for their fish houses.


"But I tell you what: Our parents told us we were rich because we had boundless opportunities if we were willing to step up and work hard and educate ourselves and do our best. And that's what's being lost in today's economy. That's what has people so disturbed."

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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