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Stauber mum, but others not on emails

Chris Dahlberg (left) and Pete Stauber

Using the hashtag #Pete4Jobs, Pete Stauber tweeted about the economy on Monday. His campaign also issued a new weekly newsletter documenting Stauber's travels. And within the past few days, Stauber's camp released a 5-minute YouTube video of campaign highlights.

But the St. Louis County commissioner and Republican candidate for Congress in the 8th District continued to avoid a Star Tribune report from last week which outlined correspondence using his county email address and an outside political group.

The campaign did not respond to the News Tribune's latest inquiries on Monday. The county said last week through a spokesperson it would not pursue the issue further, concluding it reviewed the emails and was satisfied that no further actions were warranted. St. Louis County policy prohibits officials from using government equipment on a political campaign.

Stauber is facing Democrat Joe Radinovich and Independence Party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman in the November midterm election.

"Why doesn't Pete talk about it? Easy," Harry Welty told the News Tribune. "That just gives it oxygen when he wants it forgotten."

Challenging Stauber's close affiliation to President Donald Trump, Welty received one vote for every nine Stauber tallies in the August primary.

To try to further understand Stauber's strategy of silence in the face of campaign turbulence, Welty suggested talking to Chris Dahlberg — a two-time St. Louis County commissioner who left office at the end of 2016 saying he wanted a breather. Dahlberg had been out of the public eye and quiet about politics until talking with the News Tribune on Monday.

"You can't stop people from (sending) into your email," Dahlberg said of the Stauber email report. "Otherwise, you can try to avoid it as best as you can."

A Morgan Park resident and attorney who represented West Duluth on the County Board, Dahlberg called himself a friend and supporter of his former County Board colleague, Stauber.

But Dahlberg also said he's seen enough of the scandal served up so far in the race for the 8th District. Whether it was Radinovich accruing fines and late fees for parking tickets, or Stauber's 15 emails worth of correspondence with the National Republican Congressional Committee, Dahlberg preferred to hear about the issues.

"I think these things — this tit for tat — when they're orchestrated by longtime activists getting behind them, then something is up," Dahlberg said.

He said he reads the newspapers and was familiar with last week's Democratic-Farmer-Labor press conference in Duluth calling for Stauber to release the contents of emails with the NRCC. In that press conference, Alan Netland, president of the North East Area Labor Council, compared Stauber's not releasing his emails to President Trump not having released his tax returns.

Of Netland, Dahlberg said, "He's pretty fierce on the other side."

But Dahlberg has been unmoved by tactics in the 8th District to date.

"They're just throwing things out there to see what sticks," Dahlberg said of both major party campaigns and the special interest groups which can work to fuel controversy. "In the end, what it's going to come down to are the substantive issues of this race."

Other than his campaign referring to the email report as a "smears," Stauber has yet to address the possibility he used his county email for campaigning. The county has also said it will not release the Stauber-NRCC emails, citing data privacy between a commissioner and individuals.

When confronted in August with a report of more than 30 parking tickets and moving violations as an adult, Radinovich paid his outstanding fines and took public responsibility, while adding at the time, "I reject that they're a character issue."

Daylight between the candidates in the 8th District race will come when the candidates meet on the issues, Dahlberg said, especially mining and healthcare. Dahlberg was looking forward to the News Tribune and Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce 8th District forum at 10 a.m. Sept. 26 at the Duluth Depot. Independence Party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman will also be at the forum. A second 8th District forum has been scheduled for Brainerd in October.

"It's hard in a busy world to sometimes have real substantive forums," Dahlberg said. "But I agree with the (people of the) Northland. It's the substantive issues where there is some light between the two."

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