REGIONAL— Sen. Tom Bakk said he remains hopeful that Democrats will hold the Eighth Congressional District this fall, but he said he thinks the party’s chances have diminished in the wake of Rick …
REGIONAL— Sen. Tom Bakk said he remains hopeful that Democrats will hold the Eighth Congressional District this fall, but he said he thinks the party’s chances have diminished in the wake of Rick Nolan’s decision to retire.
“I think Tony Lourey was our strongest candidate, but now he’s out,” said Bakk. Lourey, a state senator who represents Pine and Carlton counties and a small swath of southern St. Louis County, is well known in the district. Bakk said he visited party leaders in Washington recently to discuss a possible run, but eventually decided not to pursue the seat.
Bakk didn’t mention any of the other DFL candidates, including Leah Phifer, who decided to challenge Nolan for the party’s nomination, as well as Kirsten Hagen Kennedy, Joe Radinovich, and Michelle Lee, who announced their candidacies in the wake of Nolan’s decision to retire. Phifer made a strong showing in the DFL precinct caucuses earlier this month, which may have been one reason for Nolan’s decision. He announced his retirement three days after the party caucuses. Nolan had lost support from a number of party activists over his decision to align himself with the Trump administration and an anti-public lands coalition in the House in hopes of advancing copper-nickel mining projects in the region.
“I think it could be a pretty tough election for us,” Bakk said. “Pete Stauber’s a pretty good guy. And you don’t want to underestimate a hockey family.” Stauber, a Duluth police officer and St. Louis County Commissioner, is the only announced Republican candidate for the seat.
“I think Rick Nolan was absolutely going to win,” Bakk said, and he predicted the Republican National Committee would now pour more resources into the race. He also said he thinks Stauber might be helped if President Trump follows through on recommendations from his Commerce Department to impose strict tariffs on imported steel.
The race had long been considered a toss-up by most political analysts, even with Nolan in the mix. The Cook Political Report had listed Nolan as one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country in the 2018 election. The race proved to be the most expensive House race in the country in 2016, as both parties and their affiliated independent groups poured millions into the campaign. Nolan edged his GOP rival, Stewart Mills III, by just over 2,000 votes out of the over 350,000 votes cast.