Stauber brings deep roots, Trump ties to 8th District race

Pete Stauber introduced himself to potential supporters in Cambridge.
Pete Stauber introduces himself to potential supporters at People's Cafe in Cambridge in April. Stauber calls himself a common-sense, blue-collar conservative.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Campaigning seems to come easily to Pete Stauber.

He's soft-spoken and appears at ease meeting strangers as he works to build support for his campaign. On a recent visit to Cambridge, an hour north of St. Paul, he stopped by small businesses and happily pressed the flesh with potential voters.

At Herman's Bakery and Coffee Shop, he chatted up a half-dozen women around a long table.

"My mother had six boys," he said.

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Pete Stauber announced he will seek to represent Minnesota's 8th district.
St. Louis County Commissioner and Duluth Police Lt. Pete Stauber announces he will seek the Republican endorsement in the race to represent Minnesota's 8th Congressional district on July 10, 2017.
Dan Kraker | MPR News 2017

"The poor woman," someone responded as the table erupted with laughter.

Stauber, 52, of Hermantown, is serving his second term as a St. Louis County commissioner. He's a retired Duluth cop who led his police union. He served on the Hermantown City Council and years ago played professional hockey in the minor leagues.

He's hoping to use that experience to win a term in Congress, and flip the 8th District seat to Republican when DFL incumbent Rick Nolan retires at the end of the year.

Stauber calls himself a common-sense, blue-collar conservative.

St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber
St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber said he's a good fit to represent Minnesota's 8th Congressional District.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

"I think my values and my work experience, my leadership experience, my small business ownership background really resonates with the vast majority of the voters in our district. I'm one of them," Stauber said.

Stauber and his brothers own the Duluth Hockey Company, a retailer that sells hockey-themed apparel.

Like many Republicans, Stauber thinks the federal government is too big and too intrusive.

"A lot of the Democrats believe that there's always a government intervention for our problems and I just don't believe that," he said.

Pete Stauber campaigns at Herman's Bakery Coffee Shop in Cambridge.
Pete Stauber campaigns at Herman's Bakery Coffee Shop in Cambridge, an hour north of St. Paul.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Stauber said he believes in personal responsibility, and government should focus more on national security, including border security. Stauber rips the four Democrats competing to run against him for supporting single-payer health care. But he was light on specifics about what he would do.

"And you're not going to fix it on a campaign trail or a campaign speech," Stauber said. "I want it to be affordable, portable and accessible. And I think health insurance, health care is extremely important for the benefit of us all."

Stauber voted for Donald Trump and he's is a big fan of the Republican tax overhaul. He found out Trump is supporting him too, when the president called him in March.

"It was a good three-minute conversation and he wanted to offer his assistance and support to our campaign," Stauber said of the call.

The president could be a big help. Trump won the 8th by nearly 16 percentage points.

"I believe that President Trump is as popular if not more than on Election Day," Stauber said.

Especially in mining country where Stauber said Trump's steel tariffs are popular.

Longtime Eveleth Mayor Robert Vlaisavljevich used to be a Democrat, but he voted for Republican Stewart Mills in the last election. Vlaisavljevich said Stauber is a better fit for the 8th than Mills.

"Pete Stauber is a lot stronger candidate than Stewart Mills," Vlaisavljevich said. "I mean, he can walk into a crowd and mingle with people and it looks he's known you for years."

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin conceded Stauber is in a much better position than Mills was to sell himself to 8th District voters. But Martin says that's not going to be enough.

Vera Alexander said if Pres. Trump likes Pete Stauber, she likes him, too,
Vera Alexander, a waitress at People's Cafe in Cambridge, Minn., said if President Trump likes Pete Stauber, she likes him, too, even though she had never heard of Stauber.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

"Sure, Stauber wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth but he still represents those very far right conservative viewpoints that aren't going to help working men and women in the 8th Congressional District," Martin said.

Vera Alexander, 67, a waitress at the People's Cafe in Cambridge, said she had never heard of Stauber until he stopped in to campaign. Alexander likes Trump a lot and said Stauber has her vote because Trump likes him.

"Good enough for me," Alexander said. "You know, there's nothing wrong with making America great again."