In Minnesota’s nationally watched Eighth District, a third candidate struggles to be heard

Ray “Skip” Sandman
MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Independence Party candidate Ray “Skip” Sandman: "I am definitely opposed to nickel copper sulfide mining because it is unsafe in a water-rich environment."
Independence Party candidate Ray “Skip” Sandman is a serious man running a serious campaign in the 8th Congressional District, despite resources that are so minimal that he is not even acknowledged in the polls.

And, yes, that bothers him. “My campaign — we really had to work our butts off to come up with the signatures to get on the ballot,” he said. “They need to start looking at all viable candidates. I do care because I believe the voters should have the right to information of all candidates.”

Sandman was not allowed to participate in the League of Women Voters debate in Brainerd October 8 and not invited to the KSTP televised debate on October 21, both featuring DFLer Joe Radinovich and Republican Pete Stauber. “When you’re excluded, it’s unfair to the voters because now it’s a skewed debate,” he said.

It’s also one fewer, free opportunity for Sandman to introduce himself. He is an elder in the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe. He worked 16 years as a Minnesota prison corrections officer. He was naval chief petty officer in Vietnam — a major influence in his life he said in an interview in his home in west Duluth. “It showed me the value of life and responsibility,” he said. “How to listen to people and how to lead.”

That leadership shows, Sandman says, on his priority issue of the environment. “One of my opponents is definitely for opening up the Iron Range. The other is wishy-washy, sitting on the fence,” he said.

“I am definitely opposed to nickel copper sulfide mining because it is unsafe in a water-rich environment and we do not have the science, or they’re not using the best science to protect the environment and everybody downstream of that proposed mine.

“And northern Minnesota has a very huge tourism industry. People come here for the water, for the fishing, for the hunting. And if it is polluted, there goes our tourism industry here in northern Minnesota.”

He is equally unequivocal in his support of single-payer health insurance, which Radinovich supports as well. But Sandman is convinced that neither major party can produce meaningful change.

“The DFL-GOP — those are the wings of the same bird. Right now both parties are sick,” he said. “Both parties are bought and paid for. I can vote Democrat, nothing changes. I can vote Republican, nothing changes. The working class person and the people that actually vote, in my opinion, are getting screwed because they’re not listening to them.”

Learning from previous campaign

His campaign is not a symbolic protest, Sandman says. He plotted his course. He ran for the Eighth District seat in 2014 as a Green Party candidate and got 4.3 percent of the vote. After sitting out the 2016 race because of heart surgery, he researched the parties again, considered them all — even the GOP — and determined the Independence Party was the best fit.

He studied the issues and the nuances. On mining for example, he says, “[Because] it’s boom or bust, we’ve got to start looking now for something that will be sustainable.”

But taconite mining is unique, he contends. “I’m in support of those guys 100 percent because we do need steel in this country. I even hate to say this but the president’s tariff on steel was … great for the miners up here,” he said, while acknowledging the tariffs hurt American farming. “You might have to spend 200 dollars more for an American-made car with American-made steel. Everybody can afford that.”

On raising the national minimum wage, Sandman says he understands the barriers. “A 15 dollar an hour wage is not unreasonable but it will not happen overnight. I know that.”

He also knows the extreme limitations of his campaign operation in a race that has attracted more than $7 million in advertising from outside groups on behalf of his opponents. “Right now, we’re probably sitting at 500 dollars,” he said of his cash on hand. “We raised altogether about 18 to 20 thousand dollars since January and we’ve been using it up just on advertising on social media. But, it’s not really an effective way to get the message out. Joe has 1.2 million, Pete has over 500 thousand. So it’s a struggle.”

Sandman will have at least one more debate opportunity. He’ll take part in the October 30 debate in Chisholm.

Election day a week later, he admits, could be a “sad” one for him. But it may not be Sandman’s last day in politics. “I’m going to watch who did they elect and ask, is it working.” he said. And if it’s not, Sandman clearly implies, he may try it again.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Pat Terry on 10/22/2018 - 11:57 am.

    What an incredibly dishonest guy.

    • Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 10/22/2018 - 01:12 pm.

      “both parties are bought and paid for”….What is so ‘incredibly dishonest ” about that Pat ?

      Please elaborate as I see nothing in the article which would give credibility to your demeaning comment about Sandman. .

      I feel that Skip should suspend his campaign and encourage his supporters to vote Radinovich who is the much better of the ‘two evils’.

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 10/22/2018 - 03:27 pm.

        I actually think your comment does a good job explaining why Sandman is such a terrible guy. His bothsidies-ism ignores the substantial differences between the parties. Its just fundamentally dishonest.

        Even though he should suspend his campaign like you suggest because Radinovich is closer on the issues, he won’t. He’ll keeping running his self-indulgent joke of a campaign and the 2 percent he’ll get will help Stauber win. Sandman is a tool of Donald Trump.

        • Submitted by Corey Ford on 10/23/2018 - 10:34 pm.

          Here’s the thing, though. Most of the people who vote third party, or independent, would not vote for a Democrat or a Republican in that situation, anyways. Which is why we’re voting third party.

          Voting third party is not taking votes away from other candidates. Candidates are not owed votes simply by being a Democrat or a Republican–that’s not how voting is supposed to work, and it doesn’t. Candidates have to earn their votes, which is why, with candidates doing so little to work for them, voter turnout is so abysmal in this country.

          Up here in the 8th district, for people who have been paying attention not just to this race but to politics in general in the US, it’s not actually apparent that Radinovich and Stauber are that different. As Dennis noted, Radinovich still falls under the umbrella of ‘evil’. He’s a corporate pawn. He was pro-Polymet, and now hides his support of the project behind suggestions of wanting to abide by the results of studies–studies, which, mind you, are facing regular attacks by other politicians in the state, such as Nolan, Smith, and Klobuchar. These attacks are in the form of trying to push the project forward, trying to deny Minnesotans access to the process, trying to push aside or rush the studies, some of which attempts were even made in must-pass bills on the national level.

          So no, Sandman is not even remotely close to being ‘terrible’, nor ‘dishonest’. It’s our current system of voting, and current social belief system in how elections work, which are terrible and dishonest. People are attacked for voting for their conscience. People are told who to vote for, and are told that they’re terrible people if they don’t toe the line and act like sheep. It’s disgusting. It’s horrible. And it’s destroying our country. We need ranked choice voting. We need automatic voter registration. We need to do away with removing people from the voting rolls to rig elections. We need to do away with gerrymandering. We need to do away with the moronic mentality of voting for the ‘lesser of two evils’.

        • Submitted by peter tharaldson on 10/25/2018 - 06:19 am.

          Pat, I’m never sure how to react to people who are as opinionated as you are but with not many facts to back it up.

          Here are some facts. Independence candidates in CD8 have averaged around 10 and not 2% in congressional elections.

          of the 35 congressional and statewide races in Minnesota with an Independent in it since 2000 there is not one instance where a candidate has statistically drawn more from the democrats or the republicans. That is defined as being within the margin of error.

          There is some direction evidence (not statistical) that third party challenger may divide up the anti-incumbent vote, but its only anti-incumbent (the person) and not anti-incumbent party. There is no incumbent running in CD8 (lets not forget that the current congressman Dolan ran ads practically supporting Trumps trade policies two years ago).

          Finally….and this one is a giant one….there have been a few exit polls who have asked a very critical question (unfortunatley not enough polls do this). “If __________ candidate was not in the race, who of the remaining two candidates would you vote for?”. That has been asked in Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island and in…Minnesota. In the 2008 US Senate race where Barkley got nearly 16% of the vote, nearly 75% of Barkleys votes (a couple hundred thousand) said that they would not have voted for the office if Barkley was not in the race. The other two distant voters to “none of the above” were Coleman and Frankin, and the difference was statistically the same.

          So let’s be clear, with all the bullying language of third party candidates, when one engages in that they are actually working not to benefit their candidate of choice, but actually suppressing voter turnout. You are actually dont want people to vote.

          So to quote a famous Democrat (who actually worked for Nixon for a few years)… ““Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” (Senator Patrick Moynihan).

  2. Submitted by Nathan Johnson on 10/22/2018 - 12:55 pm.

    My hope is that, while Skip may stand for good things, he won’t take votes away from Joe Radinovich. The last thing CD-8 and Minn. needs is Stauber representing us.

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