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Let’s recount the DFL’s Eighth District Convention last Saturday. According to multiple tweets, Leah Phifer got the most votes in each of the 10 rounds of balloting. Still, she didn’t reach the 60% threshold needed to win the DFL’s official endorsement to run for the US House of Representatives. It was considered a fait accompli that Ms. Phifer would run in the August DFL primary. Why wouldn’t she? She was the frontrunner in each of the 10 rounds of balloting.

Late Wednesday night, though, Ms. Phifer dropped a bombshell, announcing that she wouldn’t run in the DFL primary.

In her official statement, Ms. Phifer said “My goal, since first declaring my candidacy in October 2017, has always been to win the DFL endorsement, bring new voices to the table and strengthen the party. A divisive primary season would only serve to weaken the party and distract from the issues affecting the people of the 8th District.”

This doesn’t make any sense. Phifer was the only environmental activist of the 4 candidates that were either considering running in the DFL primary or who had announced that they were running. Further, CD-8 was the only district where Rebecca Otto defeated Tim Walz. Clearly, environmental activists were activated in the Eighth. In a 4-way race, there’s no reason to think that she couldn’t have defeated her opponents.

Considering the fact that DFL Chairman Ken Martin said that a divided DFL that didn’t endorse a candidate couldn’t defeat Pete Stauber and considering the fact that the DFL was a divided shambles Saturday night after they failed to endorse a candidate, isn’t it interesting that they suddenly have 3 pro-mining candidates running in the DFL primary? What are the odds that the frontrunner, the candidate who stood between DFL unity and DFL division, unexpectedly dropped out?

It’s difficult to believe that someone who looked that energized in that picture voluntarily dropped out of the race. I think the more likely question is more nefarious. Which of Ken Martin’s inner circle forced Leah Phifer from the race?

Finally, let’s recall a little history within the CD-8 DFL. Chairman Martin and Congressman Nolan have fought to prevent a fight between the pro-mining faction within the DFL and the pro-environment faction. In fact, they fought that fight for years. Why wouldn’t they fight to prevent it one last time?

Prior to Saturday’s DFL Convention, I thought that the DFL’s best chance to hold a battleground congressional district was the Eighth District. Based on Saturday’s CD-8 DFL convention outcome, I won’t predict that anymore. Based on reports like this article, it sounds like the convention ended in discord.

Sam Brodey reports that “it’ll take an August primary to determine which of these Democrats earns the chance to compete in the general election, and that primary has the potential to showcase the party’s rifts on issues like mining and immigration, which were on full display at Saturday’s convention.”

One of the early casualties was Rep. Jason Metsa. Rep. Metsa got into the race late. Still, he might run in the DFL primary. Others sure to run in the DFL primary are Joe Radinovich, Leah Phifer and Michelle Lee. Each of those candidates have flaws.

For instance, Phifer is an environmentalist who worked for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That put her at odds with “members of the Latino DFL Caucus.” Rep. Radinovich was a one-term wonder from Aitkin before losing to Dale Lueck. After that defeat, Radinovich was Nolan’s campaign manager before becoming Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s chief of staff. When Nolan endorsed Radinovich after the 6th ballot, Frey held up a sign announcing Nolan’s endorsement.

Frey, who traveled to Duluth to work the floor for Radinovich, got on top of a chair with a hand-written sign broadcasting Nolan’s endorsement to the delegates. But ultimately, Nolan’s support was not enough for Radinovich to eclipse Phifer.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that DFL State Party Chair Ken Martin addressed the convention:

Addressing delegates earlier in the afternoon, Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin urged delegates to unite behind a candidate. “If we come out of here divided, we’re not going to win,” he said.

It’s still to be decided whether the primary will split or unite the DFL but it can’t be denied that the DFL isn’t off to a good start of uniting the party. It can’t make Martin feel good that the candidates essentially ignored his exhortation to unite.

Looming large over the convention was a candidate who wasn’t even in the room: Republican Pete Stauber, who is a lock to earn the CD8 Republican Party endorsement. Democrats are concerned that a bitter and drawn-out primary will give Stauber time to raise money and consolidate support, boosting his campaign to win this seat in November.

National Republicans like Stauber, a St. Louis County commissioner who formerly served with the Duluth Police Department, and they view CD8 as one of their best pick-up opportunities in the entire country. President Donald Trump won here by 15 points in 2016, and Republican candidates are making inroads in places like the Iron Range, which has been a DFL stronghold for the better part of the century. Nolan’s retirement, in the eyes of the GOP, only increased their chances of flipping CD8.

The biggest advantages of not getting primaried is that the opposition doesn’t get additional ammunition against the candidate, in this case, Mr. Stauber. The other advantage is the opportunity to open some deep philosophical differences. Mining is something that the DFL, especially Chairman Martin and Congressman Nolan, have worked hard at avoiding.

That’ll be difficult in the primary since Radinovich is from the ‘other’ Range, aka the Cuyuna Range. Meanwhile, Phifer is a diehard environmental activist. Those wings of the DFL mix together like the DLC wing and the MoveOn.org wing of the DNC.

At minimum, the DFL will spend this summer fighting and burning through cash while possibly dividing the party for both the congressional candidate and the gubernatorial candidate. If the DFL isn’t united this time, it will be a tough year for them up-and-down the ballot.

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I’ll start by admitting that other publications have written about DFL candidate Leah Phifer. This MinnPost article is one such article.

What’s interesting is how strident Ms. Phifer is in her environmentalism. It started with this:

Fresh tensions over mining in CD8 began at the end of 2016, when the outgoing Barack Obama administration moved to deny the company Twin Metals a renewal of leases it held on a valuable trove of copper, nickel, and other metals in the Superior National Forest, a few miles from the protected Boundary Waters Area Canoe Wilderness.

That also set in motion a process to potentially impose a 20-year moratorium on any mining exploration or activity in a quarter-million acres of land. The U.S. Forest Service stated that the kind of technique that would be used to extract these metals, sulfide mining, is unlikely to be conducted in a way that does not seriously pollute the water and soil of the surrounding area.

Nolan, fresh off another close election victory, condemned this move harshly, and framed it as a “slap in the face and a punch in the gut” to the Iron Range and its economy. The Democrat joined 6th District GOP Rep. Tom Emmer in sending a letter to Trump, asking him to reverse the Obama decisions; the duo has met with the relevant Cabinet secretaries, Agriculture Department chief Sonny Perdue and Interior Department boss Ryan Zinke, to urge them to reverse the decisions as well.

It quickly transitions to this:

The Timberjay newspaper of Ely, in a recent editorial, pointed out a notable moment from May, in which Nolan appeared at the Twin Metals office on the Iron Range alongside Emmer and a handful of Republican congressmen from the so-called Western Caucus, a group that pushes strident right-wing views on resource extraction and public lands, to advocate for action to reverse the Obama decisions on the Twin Metals leases.

“His recent alignment with some of the Republican Party’s most radical anti-environment and anti-public lands members of Congress has left Nolan incongruously positioned to the right of the Trump administration on the environment,” the Timberjay wrote.

That didn’t sit well with Ms. Phifer:

“Certainly,” Phifer says, “the legislation the congressman has pushed forward, especially throughout the summer, that has been the last straw for a lot of folks willing to overlook militant, pro-mining stances that could put the regulatory process in jeopardy. It’s gotten to the point where we’ve lost quite a few people,” Phifer says of Nolan’s stance.

For her part, Phifer believes the Obama decisions should stand, and she is against defunding the U.S. Forest Service’s two-year study evaluating whether or not to place a lengthy mining moratorium on the swath of Superior National Forest identified by the government. Nolan supported an amendment onto a spending bill that would have defunded the Forest Service’s study, effectively killing it.

It isn’t a stretch to think that Ms. Phifer is a strident anti-mining environmentalist. She isn’t a bashful politician, either:

Phifer said she was “disappointed” in the characterization of the mining communities on the Iron Range, but that she has a broad perspective of life in the 8th District since growing up in Two Harbors and now living and working in Isanti. She hopes the two sides warring over the proposed copper-nickel projects can come together to talk about what is best for the 8th District.

“Really, acknowledging the divide and then moving on is a good plan because we need to start looking at this in a broader perspective and not letting these wedge issues completely suck the oxygen out of the room,” Phifer said.

Though she isn’t a typical politician, she is a politician nonetheless.

Don Davis’s article puts forth an interesting question with multiple ramifications. In the article, Davis wrote “On Tuesday night, Feb. 6, Democratic precinct caucus attenders in the 8th favored State Auditor Otto 1,072 to 729 in a governor race straw poll. It may have been the only congressional district U.S. Rep. Tim Walz did not win in his effort to become governor (the party reported Friday with most, but not all, votes counted that Walz led Otto by three votes in the 6th District, in the northern Twin Cities suburbs and northwest to St. Cloud). From all accounts, many of the DFL caucus sites were heavy with environmentalists who backed Otto. The same type of liberal may not be as happy with Nolan, who supports mining in the district.”

Had he not retired, Nolan would’ve faced a primary challenge from Leah Phifer. It’s clear from Ms. Phifer’s environment page that she’s a hardline environmentalist. It says “Minnesota has a complex, layered practice of permitting and protections designed to safeguard the public, the economy, and the environment. It is a process of which Minnesotans should be proud and one that Leah will fight to protect. Similarly, the federal government has due process – a system built upon three coequal branches that provide checks and balances to one another, protecting citizens from exploitation and unfair application of our laws. Leah has seen the crucial importance of due process throughout her career and opposes the use of legislative power to circumvent the role of the judicial or executive branches.”

It then continues, saying:

For these reasons, Leah opposes H.R. 3115, a bill that passed the U.S. House in early December 2017 to push through a land swap needed for the completion of the PolyMet mine in Hoyt Lakes. Enacting this legislation will void four pending lawsuits on the matter, preventing Minnesotans from questioning the legality of the land swap and eliminating the judicial branch’s role. Leah also opposes the MINER Act (HR 3905), which will prevent the completion of a two-year Forest Service study related to economic and environmental issues associated with mining near the Boundary Waters. It also designates Minnesota as the only state in the nation unworthy of public lands protections, requiring Congressional intervention into decisions regarding public lands in Minnesota. Leah believes politicians should not use their legislative power to place their thumbs on the scales of these important projects, as it prevents the regulatory process from working as intended and erodes our system of due process. She will fight to preserve Minnesotan’s trust in our procedural systems and work with all Minnesotans to build a strong, sustainable economy for many years to come.

Pipeline Removal

Minnesota has two petroleum refineries and an extensive system of pipelines transporting crude oil and refined petroleum across the state. Some of these pipelines contain deteriorating infrastructure, causing companies to seek their replacement. Leah supports exercising corporate responsibility through the removal of decommissioned pipelines where appropriate and requested by landowners. In addition to respecting individual property rights, such removal could have significant positive impacts on Northern Minnesota’s economy. A current proposal for the removal of Enbridge’s Line 3 has the potential to create 8,000 jobs and a inject over a billion dollars into the local economy. Furthermore, Leah will ensure discussion surrounding pipelines includes and respects Native American voices, a community that is disproportionately affected by the location of these pipeline routes.

Phifer doesn’t support rebuilding the Line3 Pipeline. She supports decommissioning and tearing out the Line3 Pipeline. Then, to throw a little pandering into her politicking, she said “Leah will ensure discussion surrounding pipelines includes and respects Native American voices, a community that is disproportionately affected by the location of these pipeline routes.”

I’ll expand on Ms. Phifer’s campaign later today.

Democrats are going on the offense in their attempt to retake the US House. They’re targeting 101 GOP House seats. The way things are going in Minnesota, they’d better target 150 seats because they’re likely going to lose 2 seats in Minnesota.

When Tim Walz announced that he wasn’t running for re-election so he could run for governor, that seat was all-but-officially lost for the DFL. The DFL’s bench is virtually nonexistent while Republicans have 2 quality candidates who are ready to rock.

Today, Rick Nolan surprised people by announcing that he isn’t seeking re-election in MN-08. That immediately threw that race into toss-up status. Early this afternoon, Stewart Mills announced via Twitter that he’s considering jumping into the race:


Then there’s this:

Other new DCCC targets include South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District, where Democrat Archie Parnell outperformed expectations in a special election last year and is running again; New Jersey’s 4th Congressional District, represented by veteran GOP Rep. Chris Smith; Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, held by Rep. Sean Duffy; and Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, which includes the state’s conservative Eastern Shore, where Democrats initially planned to have their retreat.

The DCCC can target Sean Duffy if they’d like but it’s a waste of time. Further, with the economy getting stronger and the tax cuts getting more popular, Democrats won’t be able to stay on the offensive much longer.

Once the ads start running showing every Democrat voting against the tax cuts, Democrats will be in God’s little acre — east of the rock, west of the hard place.

Rick Nolan’s retirement has taken everyone by surprise. According to GOMN, “Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District Rep. Rick Nolan has announced he will retire at the end of his term this year. The shock announcement was made Friday morning, with Nolan revealing in a press release his intention to see out the remainder of his term before stepping down. His district is one of the most closely-contested in the nation and will be a huge target for Republicans in the November mid-terms.”

The DFL will have a difficult time defending their majority in the Minnesota delegation. They’re already in trouble in southern Minnesota after Tim Walz decided to not run for re-election in MN-01 after winning by only 1.5 points in 2016. If Republicans win both seats, which is a distinct possibility, that’d put a serious hurt on Democrats recapturing the U.S. House.

Brian McClung has it right:


Here’s Nolan’s full statement:

To the great people of Minnesota’s 8th District

With deep appreciation and thanks for allowing me to represent you in the Congress of the United States, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for reelection, and will retire at the end of the current term.
The gratitude and affection I have for all of you here in Northern Minnesota is beyond my ability to express in words. Make no mistake – I love my work representing you in the Congress, and the decision to leave is agonizing to say the least – especially when thinking of all the many volunteers, contributors, party leaders, colleagues, supporters – and of course the voters – who have all meant so much to our success.

The fact is, I have spent 16 productive and exciting years in elective office, and far longer working behind the scenes in business, labor, community service, and the public policy arena. Good politics is about making a positive difference in people’s lives, and together with all of you and a brilliant dedicated staff, we’ve made a real difference for the 8th District of Minnesota and our great Nation. Jobs are coming back. Wages are going up. The Iron Range and the 8th District are on the economic rebound, and our best days are still ahead.

Having said that, there is a time and a purpose for everything and now is the time for me to pass the baton to the next generation.

To be sure, I’m really going to miss representing the 8th District, but it is time for me to spend more time with my wonderful wife, Mary, our four fantastic adult children and their terrific spouses, and our 13 remarkable grandchildren. They have been incredibly patient and supportive. Now it’s time for me to respond in kind, and give them the attention they deserve and I want to give.

Despite the fact that our Nation is being challenged by some rather troubling politics, let’s remember that our Founders foresaw difficult times and gave us the tools to see them through. Our Constitution is strong, our people are resilient, and the elections of 2018, 2020 and beyond provide continuing opportunities for progress, reform and necessary change.

Hopefully the timing of this announcement in this still young election year will provide prospective candidates with ample opportunity to present themselves to voters and activists at the many party county conventions to be held over the next several months throughout our region.

Fortunately, we are blessed to have a number of highly qualified people who have demonstrated the ability to win tough elections and govern effectively. With hard work and a broad base of support, one of them will win the seat, and serve with distinction in the next Congress.

Meanwhile, rest assured, with the better part of a year left in office, I will continue working for the people of Minnesota’s 8th district and our entire Nation, energized and determined to finish strong.

History teaches us that there are no final victories in politics. There will always be powerful forces standing in the way of progress. So I will continue always to speak out for the common sense, progressive agenda I have spent a lifetime fighting for. But I will be doing so as a private citizen, privileged and grateful to be living here in the greatest Nation on earth.

Again, thank you so very much for choosing me to represent you.

Rick

UPDATE: This information might explain the motivation behind Nolan’s surprise retirement:

He said the main factor in his decision was a desire to spend more time with his family, mentioning his wife, children, and grandchildren, hockey games and school plays. (Nolan’s daughter, Katherine, is currently receiving treatment for lung cancer.) “It’s time for me to go home and spend more time with them,” he said. “It’s been coming for a long time. I got back into the front line of politics to see what I could do to help with getting things turned around in the district and in the country… There’s just a time and a season for everything.”

Update II: This information should get everyone’s attention:


If Stewart Mills gets into this race, that’s a race-changer.

One thing that I didn’t include in this post about Rick Nolan’s dishonesty about the Trump tax cuts is the pettiness Rep. Nolan shows. When he said “At best, you’re going to get enough money to buy the hubcap on a Mercedes-Benz” but that the “super-millionaires and billionaires, they’ll be buying whole cars, if not fleets of them, with their tax breaks”, what’s really happening is that Rep. Nolan is saying that the very substantial middle class tax cuts contained in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act don’t exist. For a married couple with 2 kids, the first $24,000 of income isn’t taxed. That’s a 100% increase from this year’s income. Second, the per child tax credit was increased, too.

Rep. Nolan, I’d love hearing you explain how families in the Eighth District will pay more under the new tax rates than they’re paying now. Further, I’d challenge you to cite specific provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to prove your argument.

Readers, I’m not holding my breath waiting for Nolan’s explanation. That’s because I think he’s too dishonest to ‘prove’ his claims by citing provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Rep. Nolan won’t try proving it with my stipulations because he’s a liar.

Another thing that’s noteworthy about Rep. Nolan’s statement is the implication that I should be upset that I’m getting a substantial tax cut while someone who’s taking much bigger risks with their money is getting a bigger tax cut. What type of sick person thinks like that? I don’t. Pay me a solid wage and the complete set of benefits and I’m happy. If I get a significant tax cut that lets me keep a bigger portion of my salary, I’m a happy camper. If someone gets more than me, I’m happy for him and his family, too.

This video verifies as fact that Rep. Nolan thinks only in terms of bitterness and class warfare:

We don’t need bitter people in politics. We need people in politics who celebrate everyone’s successes. We don’t need people in politics who think that one man’s victory is another man’s defeat. We need people in politics who see everyone’s successes as — well — successes.

Rick Nolan’s ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ style of politics is killing America. Aren’t we all supposed to be in this together? Didn’t we celebrate when rich people did well and the middle class won, too? In Nolan’s world, he only celebrates one set of winners. It’s sad that Rep. Nolan is too bitter and jealous to celebrate everyone’s successes.

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I’m tired of reading Rep. Rick Nolan’s outright lies about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. That’s essentially the heart of this article. Rep. Nolan couldn’t run a campaign if he didn’t constantly play the class warfare card. That’s what he’s doing. That’s the only way you could interpret a sentence that said “U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., asserted the bill makes taxes worse for his constituents.”

Unfortunately for us, Nolan didn’t stop with that lie. Instead, he continued, saying “The median combined household income for the 8th District is $53,000 annually, but analysts agreed the bill would cause taxes to go up for most people with incomes under $70,000, he said.”

Rep. Nolan, have you no shame? Is the truth that insignificant to you? Perhaps you should read Guy Benson’s article, especially this part of the article:

A Tax Policy Center analysis of the Senate bill reveals that three-quarters of all families would get a tax cut. Just 12 percent would see a tax increase — and they are concentrated among the rich. The average middle-income family would receive a tax cut of approximately $850 per year through 2025. At that point, Congress would have to vote to extend most of the family tax cuts. This vote would probably be a formality, as a similar vote five years ago to extend the Bush tax cuts for middle-class families passed the Senate 89–8. There is no appetite in Congress to steeply raise middle-class taxes.

Let’s make something totally clear. First, the marginal tax rate for each bracket was lowered by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Next, the per child tax credit and the standard deduction were doubled by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Third, the only people who will pay more in taxes are people making way more than $53,000 a year. In fact, the people that’ll see their taxes go up make $150,000 a year and who itemize and then only if their deductions are certain types of deductions.

Any statement that says people making $53,000 a year will pay more in taxes next year than this is a lie. Period. Here’s another Nolan/Pelosi talking points (lies):

In addition, the bill would hurt the more than 900,000 Minnesotans on Social Security and Medicare, Nolan said, because Republicans in Congress would reduce those programs to pay for the tax breaks.

It’s disgusting that Rep. Nolan said this. There isn’t anything in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that deals with Social Security or Medicare. This is part of Rep. Nolan’s typical fearmongering campaign. It wouldn’t be a Nolan campaign if he didn’t attempt to scare seniors and lie to blue collar voters. This was expected, too:

Nolan said eliminating the individual mandate would drive up the health care costs of people who bought health insurance. About 13 million people nationwide would drop health insurance as a result of getting rid of the mandate, he said. “And then, who pays for their health care? You and me,” Nolan said.

Actually, there’s another option, which is that people wouldn’t buy policies required by Obamacare. They’d be able to buy policies they prefer rather than the ones the government ordered them to buy. Forgive me if I don’t see the downside to this.

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According to this article, Rick Nolan is considering a run to be Minnesota’s next governor. The article opens by saying “Rep. Rick Nolan is considering a 2018 run for governor, his spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday. Nolan, 73, would be a high profile addition to the DFL field. He represents the 8th Congressional District in northeastern Minnesota, winning a tough re-election fight in 2016 despite a bad year for his party, especially in greater Minnesota. This is Nolan’s second go around in Congress, now in his third term after serving three terms in the 1970s. Having endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, Nolan could unite DFL progressives with rural moderates that he represents in Congress. ‘Because several people who (Nolan)& respects have urged him to run, he is giving it thought,’ said Samantha Bisogno, his spokeswoman. She added that he has not pursued the matter further and referred questions to his campaign operation.”

Rick Nolan isn’t the uniter that he’s portrayed as in this article. He’s a far left lefty who thinks Obamacare didn’t go far enough. Further, he isn’t trusted by Metrocrat environmental activists because he’s (relatively) pro-mining. I don’t know how he’d win enough votes in the DFL’s urban stronghold to win either the primary or the general election.

As a Republican, I love the thought of Nolan running for governor because it gives Republicans a stronger chance of flipping the Eighth District. The NRCC would likely think of this as a gift. Obviously, this isn’t decided. Still, it’s another possible ray of sunshine for Republicans.