HERMANTOWN, Minn. — Before announcing his reelection bid Monday, Jan. 20, in Hermantown, U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber toured the local carpenters union hall and heard how apprenticeships are increasing at a time when $1 billion in hospital construction is taking place in downtown Duluth.

“I love to hear that,” Stauber, R-Hermantown, told the carpenters, who came out in force in support of the congressman’s announcement.

“He understands bread-and-butter, working-class issues,” Adam Duininck, government affairs officer of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, said.

Stauber proceeded to deliver a 20-minute reelection pitch, saying he’d be the first Republican in 76 years to win reelection in the 8th Congressional District.

“With your help, I will be in the William Pittenger category,” Stauber said, citing the last GOP member to be reelected in the district.

Stauber’s rapid-fire address touched on topics across the national spectrum. He praised President Donald Trump multiple times on illegal immigration policy, the targeting and taking out of the top Iranian military general, trade deals and an economy he called “a blue-collar boom.”

“This is what draining the swamp looks like,” Stauber said. “Sometimes there’s frustrations; sometimes it looks like chaos. But you drain the swamp and you put people in there that want to create jobs, want to protect our service men and women and support law enforcement.”

While mentioning by name a series of Democrats he’s worked with on bills in the House of Representatives, he also delivered critiques of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and progressive ideas such as the Green New Deal on climate change and Medicare for All.

Jodi and U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber kiss after he announced his bid for re-election in Hermantown Monday. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Jodi and U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber kiss after he announced his bid for re-election in Hermantown Monday. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

“The Green New Deal would devastate the economic drivers in our community,” he said.

Millions of Americans would be kicked off their existing plans in favor of Medicare for All, he said.

“That’s unconscionable,” he said. “We need market-driven solutions.”

He described the impeachment of President Trump as a strategy to circumvent the 2020 election.

Stauber took a moment early on to acknowledge Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“He changed America and we’re forever grateful for that man and his movement,” Stauber said.

Stauber’s announcement was spread across the district, blitzing to additional stops in Eveleth; Wyoming, Minn.; and, finally, Brainerd.

When making decisions, he said he wonders about how they'll be received in places back home.

“‘What will that look like on Chestnut Street in Virginia?’” Stauber said. “‘What does that piece of legislation look like in downtown Duluth?’ or ‘What does it do for small business in the city of Hermantown?’ That’s how I make my decisions.”

While Stauber was surrounded by supporters, Laurene Longsyo came from Cloquet to ask him about the price of insulin, something her adult son requires. She didn’t vote for Stauber in 2018.

“He’s my representative, and I want to find out if he understands,” she said. “The way it works right now, it looks like Medicare for All would be better for my son than the insurance that he has.”

To date, Stauber's lone challenger is Quinn Nystrom, of Baxter, Minn. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate's campaign issued a statement to Forum News Service on Stauber's reelection announcement.

U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber talks during Monday’s announcement of his re-election campaign. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber talks during Monday’s announcement of his re-election campaign. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

"She is running because Congressman Stauber told her that he would help solve the health care crisis, but instead chose to put pharma and health insurance industry profits ahead of his constituents," the Nystrom campaign said. "Voters in our district deserve to know why, and Quinn intends to make him answer for it."

After his announcement, Stauber fielded questions from the media. Forum News Service asked him how he would advise his former colleagues on the St. Louis County Board on the topic of refugee resettlement consent.

“That’s a state and county-by-county issue that the president has requested,” he said. “I’m going to defer to my commissioner, Keith Musolf.”

When reminded that he doesn’t spare his opinions on other issues out of his purview, including state approval of the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine, Stauber said: “I know questions are being asked, but I’m not involved.”

On the topic of mining, Stauber shared an anecdote about being called specially into a Natural Resources Committee hearing, where he said he set an expert straight on mining in Minnesota. It drew cheers.

“That’s how passionate I am for our way of life,” he said. “Mining is our past, present and our future.”