Phifer Won't Run in 8th District Primary

Updated: April 18, 2018 06:21 PM

Leah Phifer has announced that she will not continue her Congressional campaign to the primary election, despite leading all ballots at Saturday's 8th District DFL convention.

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Phifer, a former FBI counterterrorism analyst, announced her decision Wednesday afternoon.  She had been the first candidate to enter the race for the seat currently held by Democrat Rick Nolan, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.

"My goal, since first declaring my candidacy in October 2017, has always been to win the DFL endorsement, bring new voices to the table and strengthen the party," Phifer said in a news release. "A divisive primary season would only serve to weaken the party and distract from the issues affecting the people of the 8th District."

Phifer led in all ten rounds of voting at Saturday's convention, which ended when no candidate could reach 60 percent support.

Phifer did not endorse another candidate. Former state Rep. Joe Radinovich, State Rep. Jason Metsa, North Branch Mayor Kirsten Kennedy, and former TV news anchor Michelle Lee are running in the August 14 primary election.

Metsa quickly responded to Phifer's announcement, saying she ran a strong campaign that energized supporters.

"I believe that this campaign is not about the issues that divide us, but rather the values we share. I made the decision to run for Congress because I am the best person to fight for affordable health care, jobs that pay a fair wage, and opportunities for all our neighbors in the Eighth Congressional District," Metsa said in a news release.

Kennedy and Lee had been eliminated in the first round of convention voting, and Metsa was eliminated in the third round. Radinovich competed with Phifer until the convention ended without an endorsement.

Radinovich issued a statement Saturday night saying he would not slow down in the coming months. Metsa announced Sunday morning that he was staying in the race, calling a primary election campaign the best way to identify the strongest candidate. Kennedy posted a statement to Facebook on Sunday saying that her track record of winning in a conservative district will work in November.

Michelle Lee held a press conference on Monday, saying she is launching "phase two" of her campaign and vowing to improve the economic, educational, and health care conditions for residents throughout the district. Lee signed the DFL Code of Fair Campaign Practices and urged other candidates to do the same.

The winner of the August primary election will go on to face Republican Pete Stauber and Independence Party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman in the November general election.

The 8th District includes all or portions of 17 counties, stretching from North Branch to the tip of the Arrowhead and from International Falls to Little Falls.

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