With the 8th District Hopeful Jeff Anderson

Politics is a messy game. Sometimes it can produce elation, listening to the bubbly slogans of the campaign trail and eating them up verbatim. But more often than not politics is expansively depressing. That may be why almost half the country doesn’t vote in elections. The exacerbating rhetoric, political hypocrisy, empty promises and voter’s general apathy toward the issues all play a role. It takes a special kind of person to be interested in politics and an even more special person to be actively involved in politics. Having opinions on the issues is one thing but having solutions to issues is another. Most folks run for office because they feel like they are the solution to the current problem. Every candidate in every election is running because they are trying to fix the problem. We vote for problems that a lucky solution gets to try and fix four years down the line. It’s easy to be a pessimist when the problems are always in office. And when the solution comes along, it’s just another problem.
But there’s always room for optimism I suppose. Former Duluth city councillor Jeff Anderson is currently vying for the DFL nomination to take on freshman Republican Chip Cravaack in November. The DFL primary will be a three way race between Rick Nolan, Tarryl Clark and Anderson on August 14th. Anderson and I had a constructive Q&A via email recently. And I asked him all the tough questions. Kind of:

MJ: What are you going to bring to the 8th district that Tarryl Clark & Rick Nolan may leave behind?
JA: I have deep roots and a commitment to community service in the district that is unmatched by my opponents. For me, winning this race isn’t about making the next shrewd step in a political plan, or one last shot at political office. This is about my true desire to help the place that I live and have always called home become even greater. I speak of our true needs and wants, and not about what pollsters in DC seem to think we should want.  

MJ: Chip Cravaack has gotten a lot of flack in his first and maybe only term. But the 8th district chose him. Has there been a schism or a shift in the 8th district’s sentiment that will give you an edge over Cravaack this November?
JA: When the incumbent had been in office for nearly four decades, it is easy see how a re-election campaign could lack a sense of urgency.  Rep. Oberstar got caught in this unfortunate circumstance, and we got Rep. Cravaack as a result.  All around the district I hear a lot of voter remorse, and I am confident that the wave of tea party activism that propelled Rep. Cravaack into office the first time will not be there to save him this go round.  

MJ:  I interviewed Cravaack in January and his main focus was on easing regulations and tax burdens on small businesses and promoting serious job growth. Would you adhere to a similar mantra? What would you do to promote growth in the Northland? And how would you do it differently than Cravaack?
JA: We certainly need to relax burdensome and duplicative regulations that slow job growth and hurt our small businesses. With that said, I won’t relax regulations that make it easier for corporations to ship jobs oversees, for employers to exploit workers, or turn government money into private equity.  We need to invest in public infrastructure and provide both private and public incentives for businesses to re-locate and/or grow here in the district.  We’ve done that in Duluth and I believe we can do it across the district.

MJ: What do you think is most important to the 8th district at this juncture? If elected how would you address this?
JA: The top three things as I see them are Jobs, Jobs and Jobs.  We need to work to attract livable wage jobs to this district so that we can maintain our population base.  My dad’s graduating class at Ely High School was twice as big as mine was in 1995.  And this year’s graduating class will be half the size of my class. Everyone thinks our greatest export is taconite up here, but that’s not the truth.  Our greatest export is our youth and talent.  We ship it right down Hwy 35 to the Twin Cities where it is dispersed all over the world.  We need to create reasons for our young people to stay and that starts with livable wage jobs.

MJ: Non-ferrous mining seems to be a dividing issue with Minnesotans. What is your take on Polymet & non-ferrous mining? How imperative are mining jobs to the economic growth of Northern MN? What would you like to see happen?
JA: When it comes to the balancing act of building jobs and protecting our environment, I am the only candidate with skin in the game.  In addition to having grown up the son of a miner, I also grew up in the shadow of the Boundary Waters.  Both are vitally important components of our local economy.  As long as my parents and friends have to drink Ely’s city water, I am going to make certain that it remains safe.  We have been able to strike this balance between jobs and our environment for generations and I believe we can do so going forward.  

MJ: What’s the most appropriate way to bridge the disconnect and encourage dialogue/cooperation during partisan gridlock?
JA: I know from working as President of the Duluth City Council how to work together to get things done.  At the federal level our representatives get away with passing the buck to state and local governments.  They aren’t forced to work together to create solutions to get things done.  At the city level you don’t have anyone to pass the buck to.  You either bring people together or it doesn’t happen.  I brought people together to get Duluth moving in the right direction.  I will do the same in Washington.  I’m going to do this by using a different tone for governing.  I’m not going to point my fingers at fellow Americans and yell at them.  I am going to listen and build around consensus, not around differences.

MJ: Is there anything specific that made you want to run for office?
JA: A deep seeded respect for the work of Jim Oberstar, and a belief that the next generation of Northern Minnesota prosperity is within reach, and that we need a new leader who is actually willing to try and get us there.

MJ: What do you love about the 8th District?
JA: I love my home.  So much so, I’ve lived here my whole life.  Many of us have been here for generations, and this area has shaped us and made us people who respect and depend on our lands and waters.  From the beauty of the port here in Duluth to the agricultural fields of the southern and western part of the district, to the remoteness of the Boundary Waters, we have such a unique and beautiful home.  And when the going gets tough, we band together to make sure that we all succeed together.  This is why I am running for office.  To make sure we are represented by someone who really understands what makes this part of the state so special.