Changing Iron Range Could Make for Interesting Election

By KBJR News 1

August 14, 2012 Updated Aug 14, 2012 at 7:53 PM CDT

Hibbing, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Mining has been a key subject in the 8th District Congressional race, but it and the Iron Range area it serves could be an even more important subject in elections to come.

"It's really one of the critical races in the country," said Aaron Brown of MinnesotaBrown, a blog in which Brown frequently writes about Iron Range politics.

Brown says that this race will be an interesting one to watch, as it may be an indicator of what is to come for Iron Range politics, an area that he says is changing.

"What I call the new 8th District. An 8th District that's no longer built on the same old traditions but rather a network of coalitions, including labor and mining," said Brown, an instructor at Hibbing Community College.

Brown says that the traditionally DFL-dominated Iron Range may see an increase in conservative voters due to a changing, younger labor force.

"The DFL still has structural strength here that won't be overcome in this election," Brown said, "You really have to look at the demographics in the long game and I think that's what Cravaack is playing here. Over time, as loyal DFL voters either move away or pass away, what will the younger voters that are taking these mining jobs do at the voting booth?"

There's no doubt that mining has been an important issue in the race for the 8th District Congressional seat.

"That's why I talk so much about mining in this race, because it is so important to the future and economic stability of this region," said 8th District DFL candidate, Jeff Anderson.

"[The argument seems to be that] you can either have good jobs or you can take care of the environment. I believe you can do both," said 8th District DFL candidate, Tarryl Clark.

8th District DFL candidate, Rick Nolan, proposed a plan to create a national research center for mineral research in Northeastern Minnesota.

"There are numerous places where funding can be cut and savings can be realized in order to fund this most important initiative," said Nolan of his proposal.

One of the biggest changes in the 8th District happened in the 2010 race, in which Republican Chip Cravaack beat out longtime Congressman James Oberstar. Since his election, Rep. Cravaack has worked to speed up legislation for mining permitting processes

"We are doing the best we can to make sure that we're hitting the environmental standards that are required, protecting our natural resources, but at the same time, harvesting the natural resources that we need as a country," said Rep. Cravaack.

Brown says that the DFL has traditionally done well on mining-related issues, but that Rep. Cravaack's efforts in the industry may give them competition.

"The DFL has always owned that issue and now they have to compete for it, which will be a different dynamic than we've seen ever before," said Brown.

Brown says that the Iron Range's younger workforce is one which is "up for grabs" in coming elections.

"A certain demographic is up for grabs and it's a demographic that's going to matter in ten years, in 20 years," Brown says, "We're watching this shift take place and it's hard to understand in slow motion, but if you look at the big picture, there's a big, dynamic changing around here."

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.