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Stauber is the GOP's man in the 8th District

Pete Stauber

Pete Stauber is now the GOP's main man in the race to get Rick Nolan out of the 8th District congressional seat.

The retired Duluth police lieutenant and former professional hockey player is serving his second term as a St. Louis County commissioner. Thursday, Stauber received the endorsement of Rep. Tom Emmer, a fellow Republican who represents Minnesota's 6th Congressional District. The same day, Stauber sat down for an interview in a booth at the Sawmill Inn restaurant in downtown Brainerd.

Asked to react to the news that Republican Stewart Mills III would not run in the 8th District a third time, Stauber said he gave him credit for running in 2014 and 2016.

"I wish him all the best in the future," he said.

Stauber wouldn't say whether Mills' decision improved Stauber's odds in the district.

He threw his hat into the ring in July because he was dissatisfied with several aspects of Nolan's tenure in Congress, he said.

Among them was Nolan's support of the Waters of the United States rule change, which defined which bodies of water fall under Environmental Protection Agency jurisdiction. Then there was Nolan's level of support for the mining industry, which Stauber said was lackluster.

Stauber appeared much more ready than Mills to bring up social issues in the campaign. One of the things Stauber offered while describing why he decided to run was Nolan's support of abortion.

"He will allow a baby to be killed within days of a perfect, healthy delivery," Stauber said of Nolan.

Stauber's aide added Nolan voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would make abortions after 20 weeks illegal. It passed the House of Representatives last month along party lines. Similar legislation bearing the same name was also introduced in 2015 and 2013. Nolan voted against it all three times.

Stauber believes life begins at conception, he said. Asked whether his stance on the abortion issue would form a key part of his messaging, Stauber said, "Pro-life is who I am." It would be part of his appeal to voters, he said.

"There's a contrast between myself and whoever comes out of the Democratic primary, I know that," he said.

Nolan faces a primary challenge from Leah Phifer, former FBI analyst.

The truck attack in New York earlier in the week was a reminder terrorism was crossing American borders every day, Stauber said. He said he was in favor of President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban.

Stauber is an avid supporter of Donald Trump—singing his praises in a Fox News interview this summer, for example. Together with Mills, Stauber helped introduce then-candidate Mike Pence during a Duluth rally the day before the 2016 election. During Stauber's speech at the rally, he noted Minnesotan iron ore helps make "life-saving devices that we call guns," and he also thought Minnesotans would "stand with the great Ted Nugent and Charlton Heston" in support of gun rights, according to Forum News Service.

However, Stauber said Thursday his support of Trump was not absolute. For example, Stauber said Trump's initial proposed budget did not contain money to restore the Great Lakes, an initiative Stauber supports.

"Ronald Reagan said when you agree with somebody 75 percent of the time, you're on the same team,'" Stauber said.

Stauber said he has strong Christian beliefs. Asked about the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which Trump described groping women (and which caused some conservatives to second-guess their support of Trump), Stauber said the only two morally perfect people to have existed were Jesus and Mary.

"You're asking me about something he did that wasn't appropriate," he said. "I'm just saying nobody's perfect. We've all made mistakes."

Stauber added that Trump "answered for" what he did.