After months of campaigning and continued national attention, Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District now has a Republican leader.
“Pete Stauber, of Minnesota, great guy he’s new,” said President Trump at a news conference Wednesday addressing the midterm election.
On Tuesday, Stauber was in control of the race most of the evening, but a late surge by Democrat Joe Radinovich made the final results look rather close.
Winning by 5.5% of the vote and about 18,000 votes, Stauber’s victory looks like a landslide when you compare it to 2014 and 2016’s races.
In those two election seasons, Democrat Rick Nolan distanced himself from Republican challenger Stewert Mills by a combined 2 %, or just 5,500 votes.
Nolan defeated Mills 50.2%-49.6% in 2016, or about 2,000 votes.
That was the second time Nolan defeated Mills in a close race, after ousting him in 2014 as well 48.5%-47.1%, or about 3,500 votes.
Once penned as a Democratic stronghold, the battleground district flipped in favor of Pete Stauber. It marks just the second Republican to hold the seat in seven decades.
Stauber now becomes just the 5th person to hold this seat since the 1946 election.
Democrats John Blatnik and Jim Oberstar from 1947 to 2011. Republican Chip Cravaak unseated Oberstar to serve one term before Democrat Rick Nolan won the seat 3 consecutive times.
It’s a change the outgoing Nolan says he saw coming.
“The switch had already started before this election,” he said.
Nolan points to President Trump whose policies on tariffs, mining and issues have resonated with much of the District’s demographics.
“Trump has shown some greater sympathy for those kinds of situations than I think a lot of Democrats have,” said Nolan.
Congressman-elect Pete Stauber said he will make it his mission to represent the working class in Congress.
“I want to really keep this pro-jobs agenda going, making sure that the middle class is taken care of. Those are my priorities, I want to make sure that our mining is taken care of, I want to make sure that our logging and timber industry, that we can harvest 100-percent of the allowable sale, and I want to make sure that everyone in the 8th District that wants a job can get a job,” said Stauber.
Iron Range Political Blogger Aaron Brown, the author of MinnesotaBrown, says the reversal to Republican wasn’t unexpected.
“I think it’s a significant turning point in the history of this District,” he said.
Brown contends the switch happened because the current Democratic message doesn’t resonate with voters throughout the district.
“Democrats really need to rebuild in this district,” he said.
He says the Southwestern portions of the district didn’t perform like similar areas around the country, where Democrats flipped more than a dozen House seats.
“They didn’t perform like a suburb. They performed more like a rural area, and what we’ve seen nationwide is that rural areas have not built up any trust with the Democratic party right now,” said Brown.
Of the 18 counties that make up the enormous 8th District, Stauber won 14 of them. Radinovich picked up four, and each picked up victories on their opponents home turf.
“It’s not so much an indictment of Joe Radinovich, so much as it is just the district is going more conservative, and trending more Republican,” said Nolan.
There were a lot of murmurs from political analysts about what impact the Independent candidate Ray “Skip” Sandman would have on Radinovich’s chances.
Sandman garnered just over 4% of the vote. If Radinovich had collected all of those votes, Stauber still would have won.
Voting for the district was down from 2016’s Presidential Election. 2016 saw 356,979 ballots cast. 2018’s Midterm Election saw 314,306 ballots cast.
Reduced voter turnout is expected in Midterm elections compared to Presidential Elections.
The 2014 Midterm Election saw 266,083 ballots cast for the 8th Congressional District.