In campaign kickoff, speakers pitch Schultz as 'partner and champion' for 8th Congressional District
U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber was chastised for voting against the infrastructure bill and supporting a petition aimed at invalidating voters and overturning the 2020 election.
DULUTH — State Rep. Jen Schultz said she wasn’t planning to run for Congress when she decided not to run for a fifth term in the Minnesota Legislature earlier this month.
But fellow legislators in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party ultimately urged the District 7A representative to give it a try and, last week, she made her candidacy official with the Federal Elections Commission.
Schultz on Monday kicked off her campaign in Duluth City Hall’s rotunda, flanked by dozens of supporters, including Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, several Duluth city councilors and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who represented the 8th District from 2013 to 2019.
“I’m running to advance the Minnesota values that we all share: hard work, decency and fairness,” Schultz said. “And I’m ready to address the issues that we all care about: affordable health care, good jobs, the best education for everyone. And I want to work hard to slow the impact of climate change in Minnesota.”
Schultz, who holds a doctorate degree in economics, is a professor at the Labovitz School of Business and Economics at the University of Minnesota Duluth, also made announcements in Virginia and St. Paul on Monday.
Schultz is the first major DFL candidate to launch a campaign against Republican incumbent Pete Stauber, of Hermantown, this election cycle.
Ernest Joseph Oppegaard-Peltier III, of Bemidji, who started as a 7th Congressional District candidate, but entered the 8th District race after redistricting put him in the 8th District, is also running as a Democrat. Theresa Lastovich also briefly ran as a Democratic candidate before dropping out.
In a fiery speech, Nolan, the last Democrat elected to represent the 8th District, said Schultz is a stark contrast to Stauber.
He brought up two issues where he said Stauber went against the will of his 8th District constituents, both of which were were echoed by other speakers: Stauber’s decision to sign on to an amicus brief in support of a petition that aimed to invalidate millions of lawfully cast votes in four battle ground states that were won by President Joe Biden and Stauber’s decision to vote against the infrastructure bill earlier this year.
“It’s always been nonpartisan. It’s always been bipartisan,” Nolan said of infrastructure, adding that it’s the “foundation” to build communities.
“And what does our congressman say? First of all, he votes against it,” Nolan said.
Once a DFL stronghold, the 8th District has since 2019 been represented by Stauber, who is vying for a third term. He won by 19 points in 2020 over DFL candidate Quinn Nystrom.
And even with new district boundaries , Republicans maintain a 15-point advantage in the district, according to politics and sports statistics website FiveThirtyEight .
“Rep. Schultz is a card-carrying member of the Twin City liberals. … Pete looks forward to highlighting the stark differences between Schultz’s failed socialist policies and his strong record of fighting for our way of life,” Johnny Eloranta, of the Stauber campaign, said in a statement last week.
But Larson said Stauber has not championed local issues and doesn't offer to help Duluth.
“What this community deserves is a partner and champion. What we need is someone who — when we are hurting, when we are suffering from the pandemic — is going to support American Rescue Plan dollars,” Larson said. “What we need is someone who is going to reach out to this community, to reach out to me as the mayor and say, ‘How can I help?’ We do not have that in Pete Stauber, and we deserve that in Jen Schultz.”
Although mining was mentioned, copper-nickel mining, which has largely divided the DFL in the 8th District, was not directly addressed.
Last week, Stauber’s campaign said Schultz “opposes mining,” but on Monday, Schultz said she supported the industry, though she did not go into detail on iron ore mining, which has long been done on the Iron Range, or copper-nickel mining, which has never been done in the state.
“I support our miners and I support our mining industry,” Schultz said. “I support good union jobs and I believe with my hard work, we can have both mining and environmental protection.”
Last year, Schultz co-sponsored the “Prove It First” bill that would delay copper-nickel mining in the state by requiring proof that a similar mine in another state could operate and close pollution-free for a combined 20 years before permits could be awarded for a Minnesota project. The bill was not voted on.
Beth McCuskey, president of the Duluth Central Labor Body, said Stauber votes against labor and highlighted Schultz's 100% voting record with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO. The Duluth Central Labor body has not yet formally endorsed a candidate.
“Jen has a proven track record, making sure that things get done that people actually need,” McCuskey said. “We can and will do better with Jen Schultz as our 8th District member of congress.”
This story was updated at 12:26 p.m. March 29 to clarify that the Duluth Central Labor Body has not formally endorsed a candidate. It was originally posted at 4:21 p.m. March 28. The News Tribune regrets the error.