Joe Radinovich pulled in outside party muscle to help conduct a large-group discussion Wednesday on 8th Congressional District campaign topics at the Duluth Labor Temple.
Radinovich, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate, appeared alongside Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., who represents the district in and around Madison.
Pocan forecast the first bill in a post-election Congress come January. The bill would address campaign finance reform, ethics and good government, lowering pharmaceutical drug prices and more, he told the crowd of three dozen union officers and members.
"We're putting it all in this first bill," Pocan said after more than an hour of championing Radinovich and lampooning what he frequently referred to as the "incompetence" of Republicans. "We're going to have a whole reform bill coming out, because there's been so much corruption in the last two years. We want to address it in its totality - if we take the majority."
The Nov. 6 midterms will elect representatives in all 435 congressional districts nationwide. Radinovich faces Republican Pete Stauber and Independence Party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman in Minnesota's 8th District. The district is regarded as a key pickup for Republicans and a must-hold for Democrats. The visit by Pocan recalled a similar visit he made for outgoing Rep. Rick Nolan, DFL-Crosby, two years ago.
As Pocan discussed how two years of President Donald Trump would require a lot of fixes, Radinovich continued to build his campaign-long case against wealth disparity and government's role in protecting workers in a technological age shifting underneath their feet.
When a railroad worker worried that further automation would result in single-person crews, Radinovich said, "I pledge my support for two-man crews for the sake of public safety."
But Radinovich didn't shy away from change.
"Our energy basket is going to have to be diversified," Radinovich said to one Minnesota Power union employee who was concerned about coal generators being mothballed in Taconite Harbor and Cohasset and the fewer jobs found in wind and solar operations.
There is money enough to solve problems, Radinovich argued, saying he never lets people forget the country is at its wealthiest and most productive point in its history. He repeatedly lamented "tax giveaways" to the rich, and said he gets "incensed" when Republicans cry poverty when it comes to things such as public education, health care and Social Security, but never fail to finance wars and tax cuts which disproportionately benefit the top 1 percent of Americans. After hearing audience concerns, Radinovich charged Republicans with purposely pushing policies that underfund institutions such as the United States Postal Service and Veterans Health Administration, which they then target to be outsourced and privatized. Poor service, he said, becomes part of the GOP plot.
Union members urged Radinovich to fight harder against dark money attack ads running on television.
"We're working on something," he said.
"I think voters are with you on the issues, Joe ... but there's no reset (button)," said Chad McKenna, an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees member who worried aloud about the sheer volume of Republican airtime on television.
Meanwhile, Stauber happened to be campaigning with Rep. Douglas Collins, R-Ga., in the southern part of the 8th District on Wednesday. They were in Wyoming, Minn.
Campaign spokesperson Caroline Tarwid said Stauber, a retired Duluth police officer, enjoys strong ties to labor, having help found and serve as past president of police Local 363.
"When it comes to labor, Pete is definitely pro-union," Tarwid said. "He opposes right-to-work which is very different than the Republican platform. People are shocked to hear that. ... But all politics are local and our district is blue collar. With Pete's union background that really resonates with people."