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Challengers come for Stauber in Minnesota's Congressional District 8

Harry Welty1 / 2
Michelle Lee2 / 2

DULUTH—A pair of candidates filed in the 8th Congressional District in recent days — one believing she can beat Republican Pete Stauber and the other seemingly intent to put a stick in the spoke of the Stauber campaign machine.

"The government is there to serve the middle class — not the wealthy or corporations," said Michelle Lee, who filed Friday, June 1, to join Jason Metsa in the 8th District Democratic-Farmer-Labor primary. "We need to keep the seat in the DFL. I believe I can win the primary, and I know that I can win over Pete Stauber."

On Monday, June 4, Harry Welty filed in the 8th District race as a Republican, meaning Stauber, despite being the unanimously endorsed GOP candidate, will be taken to the primary election on Aug. 14.

"I couldn't live with myself if I let a Trump cheerleader go unchallenged," Welty said, before later explaining, "Pete is a decent guy, but he shouldn't be able to waltz into Congress where he'll be supportive of the president and an apologist for the president."

Welty said he was prepared to run a "cash-starved campaign" in the face of Stauber's well-funded one. This is Welty's 16th or 17th filing for public office, according to the one-time Duluth School Board member. Twice previously Welty has run failed campaigns for the 8th District office — as an independent in 1992 and 2006.

Welty described himself as a moderate Republican who does not align with the far right and is no fan of President Donald Trump.

"Republicans are notoriously bad about challenging extremists within their party," he said, while admitting he hoped his campaign would catch lighting in a bottle.

Stauber's campaign, which started last summer and has raised more than half a million dollars at last report, brushed off the challenge from Welty with a statement. "Pete has been campaigning across the district for a year, and we are seeing our blue-collar, common-sense conservative message resonating with voters in the 8th — Republicans, independents and Democrats alike," said Stauber campaign spokesperson Caroline Tarwid.

Meanwhile, Lee became the second Democrat to join the DFL primary. A former TV newscaster in Duluth, Lee said she offers voters someone who listens and is shaped by their concerns.

"The 2016 election saw a lot of Democrats vote for Donald Trump," Lee said. "They were unhappy. They felt they were being ignored and weren't being listened to. They wanted the pot stirred, and look where we are today."

Lee said she signed on to participate in a candidate forum in International Falls on Thursday evening, June 7. Alluding to the candidate filing deadline at the end of the business day on Tuesday, June 5, Lee said, "We'll see who else is there."

Neither Kirsten Kennedy nor Joe Radinovich had filed for the 8th District seat as of Monday. Both DFL candidates have been actively campaigning since the 8th District DFL convention, which yielded no endorsement in April. Kennedy, the mayor of North Branch, Minn., said she was "having doubts."

It was Rep. Rick Nolan's retirement announcement in February that created the open 8th District seat in the November election. In an unexpected turn, Nolan joined the Lori Swanson gubernatorial ticket on Monday as her lieutenant governor.

"Have you ever seen a year like it?" Lee said. "This is just an unusual political year."

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