BAXTER, Minn. — It’s official now. Quinn Nystrom, lakes area native, diabetes advocate and former Baxter City Council member has been endorsed by the DFL party after garnering a dominant 78% vote on the first ballot of the Sunday, May 24, endorsement process for the 8th Congressional District.
In doing so, Nystrom is the first female nominee for either major party in the 8th’s history. In keeping with her bonafides and political focus, Nystrom said her campaign represents a push for a more rational, humane health care system than Americans currently live under.
Her interparty rivals, Galylene Spolarich and Soren Sorenson, garnered 18% and 1.5% respectively. This stands in stark contrast to the DFL Convention two years ago, when not a single member from a fractured field of candidates — which included Joe Radinovich, Leah Pfeiffer, Jason Metsa, and Michelle Lee — managed to garner more than the 60% threshold. That was just one moment of upheaval in a convention then-Congressman Rick Nolan said had “gone off the rails” and Radinovich would only emerge as the definitive nominee months later during the primaries in August.
Issues of division among the district’s DFLers — particularly around the issue of copper-nickel mining and its impact on the district’s economy and ecosystems — would continue to dog Radinovich into the general election. These divisions were cited as one reason, in part, that Radinovich couldn’t mount a coalition strong enough to challenge now Congressman Pete Stauber, R-Duluth.
So it poses the question: Does Sunday’s dominant victory for Nystrom indicate the party has set its divisions aside and rallied around a single candidate, or does Nystrom have to find a way to unify the DFL base?
During a phone interview Tuesday, May 26, Nystrom said she’s aware of the fractured politics surrounding mining in the 8th District and is looking to bring everybody together with a universal message that can unseat Stauber.
She said Radinovich was in a tight spot after spending heavily to beat his opponents during the primary, then forced to rally the party with only three months, which differs from her largely uncontested nomination and long-standing candidacy since October of last year.
“We have to be honest with ourselves and, as you know, as DFLers we have a big tent,” Nystrom said. “There are people that fall on all different sides when it comes specifically to the copper-nickel mining issue. … There are some people that are going to be very concerned about that. As Minnesotans, a lot of us are our sportsmen and women. We really value clean water and clean air, clean water, and to protect our environment. … I truly believe that miners are not anti-environment.”
“I think it's about doing whatever we can as the DFL to bring groups together and have a conversation and not to make extreme statements on either end,” added Nystrom, who cautioned that Republicans may try to make copper-nickel mining a wedge issue come November. “To really understand, that if I'm elected to Congress is to represent all the people … to cheer everybody, to listen to everybody, not to shut any group out, and to really make sure I'm listening to them.”
While Nystrom said she’s had some experience on the campaign trail when she ran for the Minnesota House, she said it’s been an adjustment launching her first bid for Congress during the coronavirus crisis. She praised her campaign team and a host of volunteers who have shifted from door-knocking to phone banking without a hitch.
“We've seen a real uptick in volunteers … and we also have seen a massive uptick in donations,” Nystrom said. “In this really difficult time, financially ... we've seen people give every little bit that they have because they just want to show in a small way their support for this campaign and seeing that a real health care champion gets into Congress.”