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Phifer Drops out of Race to Succeed Nolan in Minnesota’s 8th District

Former FBI analyst received most votes at DFL convention but decided against running in primary

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan is not running for re-election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan is not running for re-election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Despite winning the most delegate votes at the Democratic-Farmer-Labor convention for Minnesota’s 8th District on Saturday, Leah Phifer announced Wednesday she will not run in the August primary.

The convention did not result in an endorsement because no candidate received the required 60 percent of the delegate votes.

Since first announcing her campaign, which was originally a challenge to Rep. Rick Nolan, Phifer had pledged to abide by the endorsement process.

“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 statement.

A divisive primary season would only serve to weaken the party and distract from the issues affecting the people of the 8th District,” she added.

Phifer, an adjust faculty member at Augsburg University and a former FBI counterterrorism analyst, had struggled to raise money. She raised just $47,000 during the first quarter of this year and ended the period with $19,000 in the bank. She’d been endorsed by Our Revolution Minnesota, but also encountered resistance from the DFL Latino Caucus over her previous work at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

“Without DFL party resources, I can’t keep asking my supporters to keep sacrificing for this campaign (though I have no doubt that you would),” Phifer wrote in an email to her supporters. 

Four other DFL candidates are running in the primary, including former state Rep. Joe Radinovich, who managed Nolan’s 2016 campaign. He came in second in Saturday’s balloting, and Nolan, who was not in Duluth for the convention, endorsed him. The congressman later said he’d wait to see who runs in the primary. 

Phifer is not endorsing a candidate for now.

“I was once told there is a very close relationship between how people treat women and how they treat the earth — we’ve seen that play out very clearly the past several months,” she wrote in an email to supporters. “Please continue to fight for both; I know I will.”

The 8th District, now an open seat since Nolan announced his retirement, is one of the GOP’s best pick-up opportunities. President Donald Trump carried the working-class district by 16 points in 2016, when Nolan won re-election by just half a point. National Republicans are excited by recruit Pete Stauber, who faces no serious opposition for the GOP endorsement.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election a Tossup.

Watch: Democrats Have At Least 20 House Takeover Opportunities in These 4 States

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