US Rep. Pete Stauber declines invite to Duluth candidate forum

The Republican congressman is the first to opt out of participating in the forum's 12-year history.

8th Congressional District candidates participate in debate
8th Congressional District candidates, from left, Joe Radinovich, Ray "Skip" Sandman and Pete Stauber participate in the Duluth News Tribune and Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce forum Sept. 26, 2018, in Duluth.
Bob King / File / News Tribune

DULUTH — U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber has declined an invitation to a Duluth forum held by the Duluth News Tribune and Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, marking the first time a congressional candidate has opted out of participation in the forum’s 12-year history.

His Democratic challenger, state Rep. Jen Schultz, of Duluth, had accepted the invite and sent in available dates, her campaign manager, Ash Northey, said.

“We're disappointed,” Neal Ronquist, publisher of the Duluth Media Group, said in a statement. “The Duluth Chamber and Duluth News Tribune have a long-standing history of providing a civil forum for candidates to exchange viewpoints and for area constituents to listen and learn. This co-sponsored forum has been a traditional stop in the race for the region's congressional seat. We hope the congressman reconsiders and agrees to a forum in the most populous city in the congressional district.”

Asked why Stauber, a Republican from Hermantown, denied the invitation, Johnny Elorta, his campaign manager, said Stauber would be participating in three other debates.

“As he does every campaign cycle, Pete is participating in a series of debates that represents a good cross-section of the expanding 8th Congressional District,” Elorta said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “Pete looks forward to debates on WDIO-TV, which combined with sister station KSTP-TV, reaches the entire district, as well as debates on the Range in Hibbing and in the western part of the district in Brainerd.”
The Brainerd debate is set for Oct. 24 at Madden's On Gull Lake . Dates for the WDIO and Hibbing debates have not been set.


Schultz said she has not been invited to the WDIO debate yet and that Stauber had not confirmed he'll participate in the Hibbing debate.

Stanley Hubbard, chairman and CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting, which owns WDIO and KSTP, has donated $23,200 to the Stauber campaign this election cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission.

In 2020, voters sided with Stauber at each of Hibbing's seven precincts and overwhelmingly voted for him in Crow Wing County. Voters in Duluth, however, overwhelmingly backed Quinn Nystrom, his Democratic opponent.

In an emailed statement, Schultz, who in May challenged Stauber to eight debates across the district, said Stauber has become “inaccessible and unwilling to engage in public discourse throughout the entirety of his tenure in Congress.”
“People in the Eighth District are worried about the rising costs of living, reproductive freedom, being able to raise their families in thriving communities, and so much more,” Schultz said. “They deserve an opportunity to hear how we will address these and many other issues. This refusal to participate in an open debate in the most populous city in the region is a disservice to the hard-working people of our district.”

Matt Baumgartner, president of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, said he's appreciated Stauber's support of the Chamber and its initiatives in the past, but said his lack of participation in the forum was "unfortunate" and "a disappointment."

"The importance of (a forum) like that would be to show this area and this region, just how important it is to be able to provide articulate answers to important questions that are relevant to our area as opposed to just submitting a letter," Baumgartner said.

Forums held by the News Tribune and Chamber began in 2010 with the late Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar and his Republican challenger, Chip Cravaack, who would go on to win that race.

In addition to 8th Congressional District candidates, the forum has hosted candidates for gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.


Stauber has participated twice in the News Tribune and Chamber forums, appearing on stage with his competitors in 2018 and, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually in 2020.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at or 218-723-5332.
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