Leah Phifer, who led on every ballot at last Saturday’s 8th District DFL convention but was unable to secure the party’s endorsement, said Wednesday that she will not continue her campaign into the DFL primary.
“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,” said Phifer. “A divisive primary season would only serve to weaken the party and distract from the issues affecting the people of the 8th District.”
While Phifer made a strong showing in DFL caucuses, her support was not enough to reach the required 6o percent in the five-way battle for party endorsement to replace retiring U.S. Rep Rick Nolan. She has also been lagging some other candidates in fundraising, ending March with less than $19,000 on hand.
The other candidates who have said they will compete for the DFL nomination in the August primary are state Rep. Jason Metsa, former State Rep. Joe Radinovich, North Branch Mayor Kirsten Kennedy and former Duluth TV News anchor Michelle Lee.
Radinovich ran second to Phifer in balloting at the convention. He raised more than $108,000 in the first quarter of the year and had nearly $95,000 on hand as of April 1.
Metsa raised nearly 133,000 in the first quarter and had $117,000 on hand.
St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber is the lone Republican in the 8th District race. He has nearly $300,000 to spend on the campaign.
Republicans see opportunity in the district. Nolan barely managed to win in 2016, and Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in northeastern Minnesota district by nearly 16 percentage points.
Phifer said she will not endorse a candidate right now.
“I have a great deal of respect for the people who worked very hard to make me, a political newcomer and grassroots candidate, the top delegate-earner on every ballot for an open Congressional seat,” said Phifer. “It’s my hope they will go on to choose someone who follows the path we carved out and runs a positive campaign focused on the issues.”