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Our view: Give Anderson a run at Cravaack

While his nationally known opponents have been raking in cash and collecting endorsements from all over, Duluth's Jeff Anderson has been quietly and steadily -- one parade and one conversation at a time -- building support among those he'd actual...

Jeff Anderson
Jeff Anderson (File / News Tribune)

While his nationally known opponents have been raking in cash and collecting endorsements from all over, Duluth's Jeff Anderson has been quietly and steadily -- one parade and one conversation at a time -- building support among those he'd actually represent: residents and others in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District.

Add the News Tribune to his list of supporters in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary. Anderson has the leadership skills, sound ideas and Northland values to advance to the general election on Nov. 6 to face Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack.

"Northern Minnesota is my home. Four generations of my family have lived here. I am a product of that environment," Anderson said in a meeting with the News Tribune editorial board. "What motivated me to run for Congress is that I have a genuine concern for the future of northern Minnesota. ... We have enough Washington insiders."

Anderson may not be an insider, but he's not naΓ―ve or inexperienced. He has worked on local, state and national campaigns, including for U.S. Sens. Paul Wellstone, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and for U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar. He was an elected Duluth city councilor, including City Council president in 2010. And he was president of and still is a commissioner of the Duluth Economic Development Authority.

That doesn't mean he's a full-time, career politician, though, either. Anderson served six years as a mechanized infantryman in the Minnesota Army National Guard. And he has worked 16 years in television and radio, both on-air and selling advertising.

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A Democrat who supports gun rights and mining, Anderson, if elected, will "focus in like a laser beam on job creation," he said, reflecting, spot-on, a high priority among 8th District residents.

He sees a bright future in copper mining and supports streamlining the permitting process to get it started. He also wants to help existing taconite mines so they can reopen lines and expand.

He doesn't see the need for a $250 million, taxpayer-funded, mining and environmental research center, as has been proposed for the Iron Range by one of Anderson's Democratic opponents, former congressman Rick Nolan. Anderson blasted Nolan's proposal as wasteful federal spending that would create no immediate mining jobs.

Nolan defended the center in a meeting with editorial board members, saying of its quarter-billion-dollar price tag: "(It) sounds like an awful lot of money until you get to Washington, where it's chump change. That (amount) falls off the table during meetings."

Nolan's assessment may be accurate. But isn't that sort of thinking a big part of the problem in Washington?

Nolan received his party's nod after a 32-year hiatus from politics. He was a congressman from 1974-1980, sweeping into office on an anti-Vietnam, Democratic wave -- much the way Cravaack rode a Tea Party Republican wave in 2010.

Nolan's challenge is in convincing voters his decades-old ideas and approaches can be effective in a much-changed, modern world.

"I never envisioned running again, but I never envisioned the country being in the condition it's in," he said. "From a purely Democratic perspective, you want to win. There's nothing more difficult in politics than defeating an incumbent member of Congress. ... I know how to win a congressional election. I've done it."

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Anderson's other Democratic opponent a week from tomorrow has her own challenge with voters. Former state Sen. Tarryl Clark told the News Tribune in May 2011 she bought a condominium in Duluth (she now says she's leasing), a move that allowed her to claim residency in the 8th District, even if just technically: She and her husband kept their home in St. Cloud, Minn., where Doug Clark works and where they've lived for at least 20 years. Clark's "move" to the 8th District made sense politically even if panned as carpetbagging. Her party had tagged Cravaack as vulnerable this fall. And Clark wasn't able to unseat U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann in her own district in 2010. Her challenge will be in convincing voters she truly wants to represent them and isn't just looking to advance her political career.

"This isn't about lines; it's about representing people," Clark said to editorial board members. "I'm the only person in this race who has been working throughout the region. ... What I hear from people over and over again is they want someone who's going to fight for them. That's what I've always done."

Anderson can make a similar claim as someone who spends more time listening than talking, who is open to compromise and who is able to work with people with whom he may not always agree.

"This is my home," he said, a not-so-subtle dig at Clark.

"We need 21st-century leadership to move this area forward," he also said, taking a thinly veiled shot at Nolan.

He can overcome both of them by primary day -- one parade and one conversation with a voter at a time.

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