The race for Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District will make history no matter what the outcome is next week.
Either U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Hermantown, will be the first Republican to be reelected in the district since William Pittenger in 1944, or Quinn Nystrom, DFL-Baxter, will become the first woman elected to the seat.
With Tuesday's election days away, Stauber embarked on a widespread five-day swing through the district, culminating at 6 p.m. Monday in Eveleth at Margie’s Roosevelt pub. Meanwhile, Nystrom will make her final pitch at 2:15 p.m. Monday in Duluth at Gichi-Ode' Akiing, formerly Lake Place Park.
Throughout the campaign, they’ve gone at it from different angles during an election cycle marred by the pandemic.
Nystrom, a diabetes advocate living with Type 1 diabetes, appeared mostly on internet events, taking precautions against COVID-19 and limiting her live appearances. Stauber took the opposite approach by maintaining a heavy campaign schedule.
During his events, Stauber has looked ahead to a post-pandemic world.
“We’re going to be stronger, more self-reliant and resilient than ever before,” he has said repeatedly.
Nystrom is known for organizing caravans to Canada, where people could find cheaper insulin and prescription drugs. She built her case around health care.
“I’ve seen firsthand that our health care system does not work for everybody,” Nystrom said during a Duluth forum this month. “We have an affordability crisis with health insurance premiums, with max out-of-pockets, with the high cost of prescription medication, and I think we’ve only seen that this has gotten further exacerbated based on this global health pandemic.”
Nystorm favors expansion of the Affordable Care Act, and stops short of pushing for Medicare-for-All.
Stauber, a former Duluth police officer, doesn’t want to risk people losing their employee-based health care, and decries the cost of both the ACA and other progressive solutions. A member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, Stauber wants to start over with bipartisan solutions.
His focus throughout his campaign has been on delivering for an economy that has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
RELATED: Read more about Pete Stauber
RELATED: Read more about Quinn Nystrom
“Gov. (Tim) Walz shut down our schools, our businesses, and even our places of worship, but I’m here to tell you … we are ready and able and on our way to the great American comeback,” Stauber said during the Duluth forum at which he continued to press his support for embattled projects in Northeastern Minnesota. “(W)e have the opportunity to bring blue-collar, middle-class jobs back — by opening up our mines and expanding our iron-mining capacity, expanding into copper-nickel mining to help with our supply-chain dependency and, of course, support the replacement of Enbridge Line 3."
Nystrom favors Line 3 replacement, too, and says that she’s not opposed to copper-nickel mining if she can be convinced it can be done safely.
Stauber favors what he calls the “parallel tracks” of a full return from COVID-19 restrictions, while protecting the seniors he says are most vulnerable to the virus.
“We now know more about this disease than we did eight months ago,” he said during the WDIO-TV debate this month.
The race features a third-party candidate in Judith Schwartzbacker of Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis. She has not made any public appearances or pronouncements about the race. She did not respond to the News Tribune’s latest attempts to reach her.
Instead, it’s been the major party candidates stirring the news cycle — Stauber by playing host to both President Donald Trump in Duluth and Vice President Mike Pence in both Duluth and Hibbing, and Nystrom by earning the Democratic-Farmer-Labor nomination with ease compared to 2018’s highly-contested process.
Nystrom’s most recent fundraising quarter of $650,000 closed the money gap with Stauber, who has added somewhat modestly to the more than $1 million he had banked entering the year.
Nystrom has taken only individual donations and has been critical of Stauber for his support from industry-led political action groups.
“I’m committed to making sure we get dark money out of politics, because I think that it is the root of so many problems that we have,” she said.
Most race watchers have Stauber comfortably in front heading into the Nov. 3 election. The Cook Political Report nonpartisan newsletter does not consider it among the House of Representatives’ top 92 competitive races.
Stauber has earned the support of several labor unions — once the domain of the DFL.
“My opponent talks as if she supports mining, but the union members know who supports them,” Stauber said during a Hibbing forum. “I’m supported by the Teamsters, the Iron Workers, the Carpenters, the Pipefitters and so many others that are part of this blue-collar, middle-wage economy here on the Iron Range.”
Meanwhile, Nystrom won the support last week from former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson and former Republican Sen. David Durenberger. Carlson said Nystrom would protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Lake Superior.
"Quinn's interest in health care goes beyond what's the latest bill," Durenberger said. "It's very personal and the work that she's been successful at, getting down prices on prescription drugs, is impossible for her opponent to do."