With less than two months before a three-way DFL primary to decide the party’s candidate for Minnesota’s 8th District congressional seat, Jeff Anderson is certain he can win the Aug. 14 showdown.
The former Duluth City Council member, who was born and raised in Ely, emphasized his Iron Range roots as he conducted a media swing through one of the southern points of the northeastern Minnesota congressional district.
I’m confident I can win this race,” he said in a Tuesday interview in Brainerd.
Anderson, 35, is pitted against former state Sen. Tarryl Clark and former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan in the Democratic primary. The winner will take on Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., who upset longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar in 2010.
The candidate said people are starting to pay attention to what he termed as a tight 8th District primary race. He said his particular advantage will be evident in Duluth and in the six counties in the farthest northeast corner of the district — a region where he said 60 percent of the primary voters are generally found.
Pointing out differences between himself and his two primary opponents, Anderson said he is the most outspoken proponent of proposed nickel and copper mining on the Iron Range. He said he would work to amend the Clean Water Act to raise the allowable level of sulfates, holding the mining project to the same standard as agriculture and wastewater treatment plants. He said the standard for nickel and copper mining is currently 10 milligrams per liter, while Duluth’s wastewater treatment is allowed to have 80 milligrams of sulfates per liter. He said Minnesota has the strictest permitting process in the world.
“We all want to keep the water clean,” he said, “There should be fairness and equity as well.”
In Ely, he said, this year’s high school graduating class was half of that in 1995 and the 1995 class was half of that in 1969. Thousands of jobs could be created by proposed mining project, Anderson said, and to not amend the rules would be to risk slowing economic growth in northeastern Minnesota.
“These communities are headed in the wrong direction,” he said.
In the primary race, Anderson lacks Clark’s fundraising track record and the DFL endorsement, which was granted to Nolan earlier this year. He said he disagreed with Nolan’s call to reduce the Defense Department budget by 50 percent by 2015. Anderson said that would adversely affect Camp Ripley and a fighter wing in Duluth.
Nolan responded saying the cuts he favored would not jeopardize those 8th District concerns but would be realized by ending the current nation-building projects abroad and limiting the nation’s massive military footprint around the world.
Anderson said Nolan was a decent guy but the 8th District voters just rejected a congressman who was elected in 1974 (when Nolan was first elected).
“We need leadership for the 21st century,” he said.
Nolan responded, saying he served honorably and effectively in Congress and has spent the interim fully engaged in business, volunteer work, local government and community service in the 8th District. He said he was healthy, energetic and better prepared than ever to serve with the seniority of a fourth-term member of Congress.
Anderson criticized Clark, who moved into the district after losing to Rep. Michele Bachmann in 2010, as a “political tourist” and a “packsacker.” Anderson said packsacker was an Iron Range term for a carpet bagger.
Clark spokesman Joe Fox said she has worked countless days and hours in the district as a church volunteer, a nonprofit executive and attorney.
Turning his attention to the Republican incumbent, Anderson described Cravaack as “small government, go-it-alone type of guy” with a view of government that differs from his own.
“We need a representative who is going to be a partner with local government,” Anderson said.
He cited a project in Duluth in which the state and federal government helped the city pay for waste overflow containment units to prevent raw sewage from spilling into Lake Superior.
“Duluth, by itself, wouldn’t have been able to do that,” he said.
Ben Golnik, an adviser with the Cravaack campaign said in a statement the congressman communicates frequently with local elected officials and community and business leaders. In addition, Cravaack has met with groups of mayors in Hinckley, Wadena and Eveleth.
Cited as examples of Cravaack’s direct work with local leaders were: legislation he introduced to permit road construction in Cook County; quarterly meetings he conducts with a PolyMet advisory council; passage of a Peterson-Cravaack bill resolve monies owed to the Minnesota Chippewa; and introduction of Mille Lacs Lake legislation that would end federal authority over certain activities on the lake.
Anderson, a fourth generation Iron Ranger, addressed the federal deficit, stating that all of government can be operated more efficiently and effectively but cuts should be made with a scalpel instead of a chainsaw. He said the U.S. has more than just a spending problem, it has a revenue problem. Anderson said this was the first time the nation has been at war without raising taxes. He called for ending the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans.
“We haven’t paid for our obligations,” Anderson said.
He also wants to see more investment in the nation’s infrastructure and in education.
“This race is really about the future,” he said, adding that the district needed a representative who would stick around for awhile and earn some seniority.