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Minnesota voter guide: Where the 8th District candidates stand on the issues

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8th District debate
Joe Radinovich (left), DFL candidate for Congress in the 8th District, joined a debate along with Republican candidate Pete Stauber (right) and Independence party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman (second from right), Sept. 26, 2018 at the Depot in Duluth.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Minnesota's 8th District is one of the most hotly contested congressional races in the country. Democrat Rep. Rick Nolan announced earlier this year he would not run for re-election, and Republicans are aiming to flip a U.S. House seat in what has been a reliably blue district.

Republican Pete Stauber, Democrat Joe Radinovich and Independent Ray "Skip" Sandman are competing for the seat.

MPR News has researched the candidates' positions on several major issues based on their stated platforms and other public remarks:

On President Trump

Stauber: He voted for Donald Trump. Both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have visited Minnesota to endorse Stauber. During Trump's visit, Stauber expressed his support of the president, thanking him for his work improving the economy and for "putting America and the American worker first."

Radinovich: He has expressed a willingness to work with the president if elected. However, Radinovich has taken issue with the administration's decision to cut short a study of the impact mining in the region could have on the environment.

Sandman: He wholeheartedly disagrees with Trump's decision to drop out of the Paris Climate Accord and slams the administration's tendency to put business over environment when making decisions.

On gun control

Stauber: He says he is committed to protecting the 2nd Amendment. During a forum earlier this year Stauber said he would support a national database of people who should not own guns due to issues like mental illness or a history of domestic abuse.

Radinovich: He has advocated for universal background checks, raising the minimum age to purchase a gun and the elimination of bump stocks as ways to help curb gun violence in the U.S.

Sandman: He is the only candidate in this race who has called for a ban on assault rifles, clarifying that those who already own the weapons would not have them confiscated. He also advocates for smaller magazine sizes, closing the gun show loophole and strengthening background checks.

On health care

Stauber: He supports "patient-driven and physician-guided" health care and said he would support free-market principals in our health care system.

Radinovich: He supports single-payer, universal health care, calling it a human right. Radinovich has said with our current system too much money goes to "middlemen and special interests."

Sandman: He also calls health care a human right and supports a single-payer system, pointing to hospitals' dedication to profit and insurance and drug companies spending on lobbying as a roadblock in enacting Medicare for All.

On marijuana laws

Stauber: He does not support the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes, pointing to a desire to keep all drugs away from Minnesota's youth.

Radinovich: He supports the legalization of marijuana both for medicinal and recreational purposes, in addition to farmers' right to grow agricultural hemp. He has also called for those who have been convicted of marijuana-related charges to have those incidents expunged from their criminal records.

Sandman: He supports the decriminalization of marijuana, calling the money spent on housing those in prison on marijuana charges a "huge waste of money."

On higher education

Stauber: He has pointed to students not knowing all their options as a problem with higher education and that technical colleges are sometimes overlooked as an option. He says he would advocate for making sure industrial arts programs are offered in high school. He also said public repayment programs might be necessary to keep higher education affordable.

Radinovich: Students should have free access to apprenticeships, trade and tech schools and community college, Radinovich says. We can achieve this by looking at where special interest groups are influencing policy and giving the advantage to the super-wealthy through tax cuts, he said.

Sandman: He believes access to education is a right and is essential to our economy, saying the first two years of higher education should be free. This can be done through "a moderate income tax increase" on the most wealthy in the U.S. in combination with the elimination of corporate subsidies and a careful prioritizing of military expenditures.

On climate change:

Stauber: Stauber believes the U.S. shouldn't rejoin the Paris climate deal and favors an "all-of-the-above" policy for energy over what he considers burdensome, job-killing regulation.

Radinovich: His stance on the environment mostly focuses on mining in the region, promoting a strong regulatory process for any projects. He also supports funding for the state to meet its CO2 emission goals and the move toward a "clean energy economy."

Sandman: He has vowed to fight climate change by discouraging the use of fossil fuels and investing in green energy and the jobs it creates.

On immigration

Stauber:Stauber says there is a need to secure America's borders to include walls in some places. He did call the Trump administration's policy of separating children at the Mexico border "heartbreaking and an unfortunate consequence of when parents disregard the law." 

Radinovich: Creating a pathway to citizenship for those who are in the country illegally should be a priority, Radinovich said. He does not support President Trump's plan for a wall at the border.

Sandman: The nation does not do a good enough job vetting immigrants, Sandman said during a recent debate, adding that certain people are targeted based on the color of their skin. He also does not support Trump's plan for a border wall, calling it a waste of money.

On the job market

Stauber: He says he wants to keep young workers in the region by supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs. He supports making lending systems more accessable so aspiring businesses can get their start. 

Radinovich: Technology and globalization are causing our job market to change quickly, he said. He believes investments in infrastructure can help create and support jobs and we should focus on paying a fair wage to people who are in high demand jobs.

Sandman: He says wealth inequality is "the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in America." He is against tax cuts for the top percent of earners and supports a minimum wage of $15 an hour. He also pointed to NAFTA as a reason for the loss of many manufacturing jobs.

On Polymet's plan for a copper-nickel mine

Stauber: He supports Polymet's plans to mine near the boundary waters and is adamant that there can be a balance between supporting mining and protecting the environment. Stauber says technology used to prevent pollution will ensure the project is safe. He has been critical of moves that stall the project's approval process.

Radinovich: He says he supports the endevor, but only if Polymet is able to meet all the environmental standards in place. In a debate he also talked about the importance of making sure the company is held accountable to the business plan they have laid out should the mine go bankrupt and need to close.

Sandman: He completely opposes the copper-nickel mine and says the company's financial assurances — which would be used for any potential environmental cleanup — are not enough in any scenario where the surrounding environment is polluted. To those who think the mine is necessary to bring jobs to the region, Sandman says high-paying jobs are not a guarantee and are not a priority of mining corporations.

On the GOP tax law

Stauber: He strongly supports the tax law, crediting it with bringing essential tax cuts to average families in the 8th District and with providing opportunities for businesses to invest in their workforce.

Radinovich: He opposes the law, saying it favors the super-wealthy and that it will make the country's current deficit worse.

Sandman: He says he would vote to repeal the tax plan, saying it would add trillions of dollars to the country's deficit.