MN governor’s race likely to pit environment vs. jobs

The election results from the Iron Range would seem to confirm that voters there want more mining, despite claims of environmental damage it could cause.

The DFL has generally been aligned with environmentalists, particularly against a proposed copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes, Minn.

Could this be the issue that swings the 2018 election for governor?

Can a DFL candidate win without the Iron Range?

The DFL Central Committee, the governing body of the party, will consider Resolution 54 on Saturday at its meeting in Lakeville (see agenda).

The resolution would “oppose sulfide ore mining, which is significantly different from taconite mining, poses unacceptable environmental risks, threatens multiple watersheds (Lake Superior, BWCA/VNP, Mississippi) and should not be allowed in the sulfur-bearing rock of Minnesota.”

Iron Range DFLers vow to vigorously oppose the resolution, the Mesabi Daily News reports.

“This isn’t a political issue, it’s a way of life issue for us,” said Aurora City Councilor Dave Lislegard, who was a delegate at the state convention where it was originally delayed. “As a labor Democrat, I truly hope the party doesn’t take a position against the Iron Range.”

State Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, helped beat back the issue twice already this year.

At the state party convention in June, the DFL kicked it down the road to the Central Committee in August, where it again delayed a vote until after the Nov. 8 election.

A little more than a month later, Resolution 54 is alive again.

“My hope is that common sense prevails and we don’t adopt a resolution that isolates what people here, who are good Democrats, have done, Metsa said.

Adoption of the resolution could prove “catastrophic” to the DFL on the Iron Range, the paper said.

The race for the governor’s seat will heat up within the next year, and considering the ground lost by Democrats in 2016, an extreme stance against the Range way of life, fronted by the environmental caucus and Martin, could flip the region red.

It could also put Range DFLers face to face with the party, or their constituents.

“It’s been a hot-button political issue that got used this election cycle,” Metsa said. “I don’t know on the fallout or what there will be.”

Meanwhile, MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire writes that Republicans are already lining up to grab the open seat for governor, completing the Republican sweep in the once-blue state.

In his interview with 60 Minutes last night, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked about rolling back environmental regulations and protections during the Trump administration. He didn’t give either a unqualified “yes” or an unqualified “no.” He just said “jobs.”

“We’re talking about smarter regulations that actually help us grow jobs in this country,” he said. “We want to have good stewardship and conversation of the environment and economic growth. We have a real economic growth problem in America. We are limping along. Wages are flat. And jobs aren’t being created near to the extent that they could and should be. So we think regulatory relief is very, very important. And that’s something we’re going to work on day one.”

Related: The nation’s rural reckoning of 2016 (Minnesota Brown)