Former Duluth TV Anchor Michelle Lee Runs For Congress

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Kristen Larsen

Former Duluth TV Anchor Michelle Lee says she’s been thinking about running for congress for some time now. Last year she was prepared to run if Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL) decided he was going to run for governor. He didn’t and she didn’t. Now that Nolan has announced he won’t run for re-election she’s running for his 8th district congressional seat and is seeking the DFL party endorsement.

Lee announced her decision to run at a February 18 news conference at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet. That’s not too far from Duluth where for 26 years she anchored KBJR-TV’s newscast. She retired from TV last year, but still has a lot of name recognition, something her other DFL opponents lack. However, unlike most of her opponents, this is her first run for elective office.

On the topic of health care she’s in favor of “Medicare for all.” “No one should be barred from health care simply because they don’t have the money.” On immigration she says “we cannot close our borders to good people who will build our economies.” Noting that her great-grandmother immigrated from Sweden “why should have had that gift and opportunity and others be denied that?” On “dreamers”, people who were brought to this country illegally when they were children, “these kids are American through and through. We need to not only give them a pathway to citizenship, in my heart they are American citizens.”

Lee joins a field of three other candidates seeking the DFL endorsement for congress. Others running are North Branch Mayor Kirsten Kennedy, former counterterrorism analyst for the FBI Leah Phifer, and former state Rep. Joe Radinovich with several others considering a run. A primary race for the seat appears likely. On the Republican side St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber is the only announced candidate. However, former Republican congressional candidate Stewart Mills is considering entering the race.

Text of Lee’s campaign announcement as prepared for delivery

Good Morning. Before we begin I must thank President Larry Anderson for opening the doors to this beautiful campus today and for his life long dedication to the education of our young people. Fond du lac Tribal and Community College would not have been possible had it not been for a partnership between the band, the state and federal government—we stand here today because good people came to the table and made a difference.

I want to thank everybody for coming today, a Sunday—including my family; those who are able to be here and those who are here in spirit. It is also important for me to thank Representative Rick Nolan and I wish him the best in his retirement.

Today, I officially announce my candidacy for United States Congress representing Minnesota’s great 8th Congressional District. I do this with great hope —and confidence that we together can build a better future for all of our children. The 8th Congressional seat has been held by some great leaders…among them John Blatnik and Jim Oberstar. They served at a different time, a time when our major political parties came together to produce monumental pieces of legislation.

That was then, this is now.
Today our congress is broken.

When I first contemplated running, many good friends with experience in politics tried to talk me out of this. They pointed to mean spirited social media and the inability to work across the aisle to effect change. It was a long list.

Nevertheless—I persisted. And I will continue to persist.

I am committed to be your Congresswoman and I stand before you confident I can make a difference.
But I cannot do it alone. I need your help to build the economy of the future that will support this district and the families who call it home.

It is no secret some areas of our district are growing older and we are losing our young people as they leave to build a future away from their hometowns.

We must recognize the boundaries of our district have grown beyond Duluth and the Iron Range.

That means that we have to reach out to every corner of this great and diverse district and address the problems and concerns we all share.

Today — I’d like to speak briefly about some of those issues.

Before I do, clearly, with the deadly High School Shooting in Florida on Wednesday, gun violence is on all of our minds.
As a responsible, licensed gun owner I believe we must all stand together to insure basic, common sense solutions.

It’s time to ban bump stocks, noise suppressors, high-capacity magazines, and we need to make certain assault weapons are in the hands of those who work to protect us, not in the hands of those who seek to harm us.

Today I want acknowledge the horrendous pain and suffering brought by yet another senseless mass shooting claiming the lives of American children.

Other issues facing us are the creation good paying, sustainable jobs, the investment in public education and the need to build and maintain a quality health care system for everyone.

We need to move forward and expand Medicare for all. In the richest nation in the world it is unacceptable that people should die for want of healthcare because they cannot afford insurance.

We must also work to support and strengthen our rural health care system. A woman in labor should not have to travel miles to deliver her baby, simply because her hometown hospital cannot offer that service.

A large part of our district has been enmeshed in a battle pitting miners against environmentalists over the issue of copper-nickel sulfide mining. We must separate the notion that iron mining and copper-nickel mining are the same; they are not.
The extraction methods are very different.

One is very toxic and dangerous to our environment. The other has served our region for more than a century, without long lasting damaging effects. Sulfide mining is too great of a gamble on our future. Water is our most strategic national reserve and we must do all we can to protect it. Water is life. Without water we have no life.

I strongly support iron ore mining and taconite production. I will fight to sustain and grow this industry that is so important to the Iron Range and Duluth economies. I support sustainable timber harvesting and our tourism industries. There has been far too much emphasis on the problems and not enough on the solutions.

We can start by expanding our community colleges, building out our rural broadband services and attracting industries of the future. Why not start by building solar factories, hi-tech copper recycling plants and a world class research center to study our Boundary Waters and the district’s watersheds.

Finally, primary to our success—affordable and accessible education. We must swing open the doors to our trade and technical schools. We must swing open the doors to our colleges to all students and provide the training to meet the demand of the 21st century.

I believe no young adult should be saddled with such high student debt, that they are forced to put their lives on hold.
In today’s economy young people are not buying homes, they are not having children. They are frozen in time. We need to do everything in our power to give them a pathway to success and to help them fulfill their potential in life.

These are the issues that will unite us.

We need to start talking together because—we are all in this together.

I will go to Washington with the full intention of representing every square mile of this district. Together we will build a powerful new wave of elected officials that can be the change we all so desperately need.

A new wave that can bridge the political party divide to once again produce legislation that will be remembered for the good it does—not the harm it brings to many….

For years I had a front row seat, watching and reporting on the decisions made by our elected officials that impacted the people of the 8th district.

For 30 years you invited me into your homes and allowed me to tell your stories and how these important decisions impacted your lives.

As a journalist I had to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself.

That was then, this is now.

Yours are the stories of this great district. I can tell you, your interests will never take a back seat to some political calculation.
The interest of the people will always come first.

Because that is who I am.

I’m Michelle Lee.

A graduate of North Branch High School and Brown Institute of Broadcasting I have been a nurses aid, I have been a factory worker and came up the ranks as a cub reporter. I am a wife, a mother… maybe someday a grandmother.

I am a woman who will pack those experiences in my bag when I go to Washington.

And with your support, we will move forward together, focused on the future as your next representative in the United States Congress.

Thank you.

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