Washington monthly elections are more complicated than national trends indicate

I’d like to dig a little deeper into the idea that “ all politics is local” and, assuming a point of personal privilege, apply it to a couple of congressional races in my home state of Minnesota. I hope that these examples can shed some light on the idea that the urban, suburban, and rural divide is much more complicated than is often recognized.

Voters in the sprawling farm country south of Minneapolis and in the economically struggling Iron Range along the Canadian border give Republicans in those two congressional districts perhaps their best chance anywhere for flipping Democratic seats. Democrats need to pick up 23 seats in November to retake the House, but the odds grow long if they lose districts they currently hold.

He has the political acumen of Rick Saccone and the misogynistic mind of Blake Farenthold, combined with the winning track record of the pre-2016 Chicago Cubs.

He is Jim Hagedorn, the worst midterm candidate in America and, more than likely, the reason Republicans will lose Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District along with their majority in the House of Representatives…

A prolific conservative blogger while a U.S. Treasury Department employee, his Internet archive is full of the locker room talk that even the recently resigned Blake Farenthold wouldn’t find funny. Ahead of the 2002 midterm elections, Hagedorn called Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., “undeserving bimbos in tennis shoes.” During the confirmation hearings of Harriet Miers in 2005, Hagedorn described her Supreme Court nomination as an effort “to fill the bra of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.” Throughout the 2008 presidential election, Hagedorn complimented the Republican ticket, writing, “On behalf of all red-blooded American men: THANK YOU SENATOR McCAIN, SARAH’S HOT!”

It’s also important to keep in mind that, while the 1st congressional district is primarily rural, it also includes the city of Rochester, which is home to the Mayo Clinic. In a lot of ways, that part of the district has more in common with suburban areas because of its concentration of highly educated voters. I expect this race will be more about the personalities of the two candidates than the issues they talk about.

Republicans in the 8th district did a much better job of choosing a candidate. Pete Stauber is a former professional hockey player and retired police officer, which will play really well in rural Minnesota. He will face Joe Radinovich, who was a state legislator for two years and served as campaign manager for Rick Nolan. In other words, he doesn’t have much of a career to run on, especially outside politics.

But unlike the 1st, there is one over-riding issue in this district that is huge. The 8th includes the “Iron Range” that runs to the east of Lake Superior. Miners there have been hit hard economically, just like much of the manufacturing base across the country. The hottest issue in that part of the country has to do with opening up new mines in an area environmentalists say could damage the much-beloved Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area, which is the home of 1,100 of Minnesota’s famed 10,000 lakes. The area includes “more than a million acres of pristine waters and unspoiled woodlands … interspersed with canyons, steep cliffs and huge rock formations shaped by glaciers during the last ice age.”

This is the classic battle between resource extraction and recreation that is playing out all over the country, but primarily in western states. Just as there are significant interests on the part of miners for these jobs, there is a huge industry around the Boundary Waters that is dependent on recreation, not to mention that it ties with the Mall of America as Minnesota’s #1 tourist attraction.

Radinovich beat several candidates in the primary who ran against the mining of copper and nickel near the Boundary Waters. But he didn’t take a terribly strong stand—basically suggesting that mining should go forward with proper safeguards in place. So Democrats have a candidate with a weak resume and an electorate that is split on a major issue.

What we have with these two congressional districts is that, in one, personalities will be front and center, while in the other, an issue that is unique to the area will be the focus of attention. If I had any money, I’d bet on Democrat Dan Feehan winning in the 1st and Republican Peter Stauber in the 8th. While national trends are important, ultimately, all politics is local.