Diabetes advocate first glimpse at DFL's 8th District maneuvering

Calling herself "completely flattered," Baxter, Minn.'s Quinn Nystrom is considering a run for Congress after being recruited by a number of people within the party.

Quinn Nystrom.jpg
Quinn Nystrom (contributed photo)

A lifelong diabetes advocate fighting now to lower insulin costs is considering a run for the DFL nomination in the 8th Congressional District, where no one so far has come forward to challenge incumbent Rep. Pete Stauber in 2020.

Quinn Nystrom , 33, spoke with the News Tribune from her hometown in Baxter, Minn., over the weekend to confirm she'd been recruited to run for Congress by a number of people within the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. She's treating it as one of the biggest decisions in her life to date, she said.

"Can I be the best representative — take my nearly 23 years of advocacy and be that strong voice for the 8th District?" she said. "That's a big decision. I won't take it lightly."

Officials in the party have previously said it has targeted eight or nine prospects to challenge Stauber, the retired Duluth police officer and county commissioner who seized the district for the Republicans in 2018. His DFL challenger in that race, Joe Radinovich, already removed himself from 2020 contention in an announcement earlier this month .

Nystrom is the first DFL recruit to be known publicly. She said she saw no reason to dodge the question of whether or not she's considering it. Eighth District DFL Chair Emily Nygren addressed the process in a brief statement.


"We are excited to see many competitive potential candidates consider running," Nygren said. "The 8th District DFL will begin our endorsement process early next spring at our convention."

The 8th District DFL convention is scheduled for May 2-3, at a place to be determined.

Nystrom has given herself until the end of the year to make a decision. She confirmed she's spoken with Nygren and "a number of other people I respect immensely from the 8th District."

Nystrom does advocacy work at both the state and federal level. In July, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, attended one of the insulin caravans to Canada Nystrom said she helped organize. In Canada, insulin, the drug necessary to regulate Type 1 diabetes, costs about one-tenth of what it does in the United States .

"I've been trying to keep people with diabetes alive in the United States," Nystrom said. "In my opinion, it's a human rights crisis."

She's weighing her current advocacy work against the slog of a campaign, including fundraising what she estimated would need to be $3 million.

Nystrom is versed in the work of a politician and insists she has passion for "a plethora of issues." She's been knocking on doors, raising money and speaking for causes since she learned in fifth grade that a younger brother had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She promised her brother then to help find a cure, and later endured her own Type 1 diabetes diagnosis at age 13.

Nystrom finished a term on the Baxter City Council early this year, and lost in a 2016 run for Minnesota House of Representatives in District 10A, which includes Baxter and nearby Brainerd. In that race, Nystrom lost to Republican Josh Heintzeman, 59% to 41%, 12,919 votes to 8,831. In the same election, President Donald Trump won 61% of the vote in District 10A, 13,466 votes to Hillary Clinton's 6,950 — meaning Nystrom outperformed the top of the Democratic ticket in a heavy Republican district.


"I'm a fourth generation elected official from Crow Wing County," she said. "Those are not congressional runs, but I believe in public service."

Nystrom said neither Stauber nor polling or other elect-ability ruminations will weigh into her decision.

"You throw your hat in the ring because you think you are the very best person for the 8th District to send to Congress," she said. "If you believe that, then you do it."

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