Pete Stauber heads into today’s CD-8 Republican convention as the only candidate in the race on the GOP side. Perhaps that’s because he’s an impressive candidate with a strong organization. Perhaps, it’s because his list of endorsements reads like a Who’s Who of Iron Range mayors:

“Enthusiasm is very, very high,” Stauber said. “It’s an inspiration for me as a candidate.” But it’s not the delegate numbers that are most telling at this stage in the race, some seven months away from Election Day. It’s the names Larry Cuffe Jr. of Virginia, Shari Swanson of Buhl, Robert Vlaisavljevich of Eveleth and Andrea Zupancich of Babbitt, the four Range mayors who have endorsed Stauber despite being from a region traditionally known as a stronghold for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

This is still a tough fight for Republicans but it’s worth noting that Eighth District Republicans have flipped a bunch of legislative seats since 2010.

After today’s convention makes him the officially endorsed candidate, Stauber can start his general election campaign. Meanwhile, on the DFL side, a handful of candidates will have to fight things out amongst themselves for the next 3 months.

This must put a smile on Stauber’s face:

But it’s not just Stauber’s position on mining that is winning over some people on the Range, said Cuffe, who admitted to being raised Democrat and voting Democrat most of his life. “I believe in his qualities and values,” Cuffe said of Stauber. “Mining is just a small reason why I support him.”

The Twin Cities DFL is nuts. It’s composed of trust fund babies and environmentalists. Rudy Perpich’s DFL exists only in the history books.

Swanson added she’s less likely to listen to local DFLers even if they are full-tilt for mining. The party, she said, has been co-opted by Twin Cities’ metropolitan values. “It just seems like more and more the power is coming out of the Twin Cities in the DFL Party,” she said. “It’s getting stronger on their side and it’s less friendly with what we do up here.”

This is a fight Stauber can win. If he wins and, as I suspect, Republicans flip Tim Walz’s seat, it could make for a very good night for the Republican Party of Minnesota.

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