HIBBING — Marjorie “Marje” Holmstrom-Sabo stood beside her two teenagers on the northside of the Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine View in Hibbing on Tuesday afternoon, the 16 mph fall winds blowing back her green strands of dyed hair as she announced her candidacy for Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District seat.
The Mine View was recently closed for the season and her small group of campaign staff, including a strategist and family members, improvised locations to a muddy side road where she presented her ideas for running as part of a group called the Iron Range Grassroots Progressives, with the hopes of garnering of an endorsement from the Democratic Farmer Labor Party, or DFL, for the Eighth Congressional District seat in the upcoming 2020 election.
“I’m running because I can’t stand politics,” Holmstrom-Sabo, 45, said. “...Sometimes you have to turn and face the things you hate to make it better.”
Born in Hibbing, Holmstrom-Sabo ran through a brief history of being the second oldest of five children growing up in the “boom and bust cycles of the steel industry.” Her late father was a longtime laborer at U.S. Steel MinnTac. She graduated from Nashwauk-Keewatin in 1992 and with financial support from federal grants, scholarships and a summer job at MinnTac.
“I’m a Range kid all the way through,” she told the Mesabi Daily News in a brief interview Tuesday.
Holmstrom-Sabo eventually became the first woman in her family to graduate college when earning a bachelor’s degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 1997. She has gone on to work in software engineering, web development, education, mortgage and online retail servicing and operations management.
Holmstrom-Sabo currently lives in St. Paul, because a custody agreement with her ex-husband mandates that they must live 30 miles from one another. She is aware that the residency requirements for Congress contain the unusual rule of not having to live in the district to be elected to serve that district. Still, she is remarried and “actively searching to find housing on the Range,” in part to be closer to her mother and also to be living among district voters.
With her announcement, Holmstrom-Sabo became the second DFL candidate this month to announce campaigns against incumbent Republican Congressman Pete Stauber, a 53-year-old Hermantown-grown professional hockey player turned Duluth police lieutenant and St. Louis County Commissioner that received support from President Donald J. Trump in his successful flip of a historically Democratic seat in November 2018. Last week, Quinn Nystrom, a 33-year-old Baxter-based diabetes advocate announced her own run for a DFL nomination to win the sea in 2020.
In the interview with the MDN, Holmstrom-Sabo described her beliefs of strong protections for worker’s rights to organize, livable wages, affordable and accessible health care and development for economic opportunities.
How does her Progressive-styled politics differ from Nystrom? “I adore her. She’s deeply passionate and knowledge.” And how about Stauber? “I feel like he supports profits. Big business. Big banks. He supports policy that doesn’t support people.”
Earlier this year, Stauber told the MDN that he would “never blindly follow any political party.” But voting records show that he has mostly voted in line with Trump and GOP-backed legislation on immigration and trade issues and with the party’s support of the proposed PolyMet and Twin Metals copper-nickel mining projects. Such moves have made him an attractive lawmaker to officials with other Range mining companies.
In a quick Q&A near the Mine View, Holmstrom-Sabo offered her own beliefs on several issues.
Her position on Trump given that Stauber called the impeachment inquiry “irresponsible” and Nystrom did not offer her opinions on the matter? “I do not like him. I look to his past history in being a real estate and see him as being shady. I support the impeachment inquiry. We need to know what happened. We need to have accountability.”
Her stance on health care? In an effort to combat Stauber, Nystrom has been promoting a narrative of knowing first hand the hardships of expensive health care prescription drug costs. “We have to make health care affordable, so people don’t have to choose between healthcare and housing,” Holmstrom-Sabo said.
And her stance on copper-nickel mining, which Stauber has openly supported since his campaign. “I have some concerns. But someone will mine it because there’s a demand for precious metals. We can pursue it carefully with environmental protections. As a miner’s daughter, if there are no jobs then we have families going hungry. We can’t have that.”
Last week, Nystrom told the MDN that “knowing what a big issue this is for the Eighth District, I’m not going to act like I’m an environmental expert and I’d rather meet with people on both sides of the issue and arrange meetings and tours to form the best decision.” Nystrom, who called herself pro-labor and union, continued: “I’m not like Congressman Stauber and I won’t come into a huge issue and say we’re only listening to one side. To me, I always want to bring in both sides. Let’s bring people together and find a common ground.”
Nystrom declaration that she is a pro-labor DFLer comes at a time when sources say there has been much infighting in the party due to its apparent lack of focus on labor-related issues.
“The two-party system needs to change,” Holmstrom-Sabo said. “The two parties are entrenched and people need to compromise. I feel like change is coming and it has to happen. I align more closely with the DFL. There’s a lot of policies I can get behind. But they have neglected the small rural communities to their detriment. And that’s how the Republicans were able to flip the House seat.”
She continued, “I want to return to the labor portion of the DFL. The history of family and unions working to organize for collective bargaining and jobs.”
Holmstrom-Sabo plans on scheduling town hall meetings throughout the district in the upcoming weeks.