Washington, D.C. — Two out of the last 72 years.
That’s the minute amount of time a republican has held Minnesota’s 8th District Congressional seat.
Pete Stauber turned it red in November, defeating democrat Joe Radinovich.
And one could argue, if there was ever someone built to turn the 8th red, it’s Stauber.
He’s the rarest kind of republican — pro-union.
A longtime cop with a name synonymous with hockey greatness.
A guy with a blue collar pedigree.
But “blue collar Washington, D.C. lawmaker” is as much an oxymoron as “8th District republican” used to be.
He’s not your typical congressman.
And that’s a big reason we traveled to Washington, D.C., to check in on the freshman lawmaker, and see how he’s adjusting to life in the land of partisan gridlock, in the midst of a shutdown that shows no sign of ending.
“Walking through the tunnels and trying to get to the Capitol for votes on time, that’s interesting and I’ve gotten myself lost a few times and you ask for help,” said Stauber.
On just his 12th day in Congress, Pete Stauber was still learning the capitol layout, still getting his office set up, still developing a daily routine, and still pinching himself that he’s gone from County Commissioner to U.S. Congressman.
“It’s surreal,” said Stauber. “You walk by other offices of senior members of congress who have been doing a great job for many years, and you say hmmm, you’re a part of that and part of the solution.”
We caught up with Stauber on day 25 of the partial government shutdown.
Washington was snow-covered, cold and quiet.
But inside his office building, things moved quickly, with meetings, phone calls and occasional votes, requiring an eight minute walk to the Capitol via an underground tunnel.
“It’s like when my alarm clock goes off at 5:53 a.m. and then all of a sudden its ten at night,” said Stauber.
Stauber starts each day before sunrise, with a trip to church, breakfast, and into the office before anyone else gets there.
“I attend a daily mass down the street at St. Peter’s. After mass I go to have a quick bite to eat and then I go to the office. The staff’s not here yet. I’m prepping for the day,” said Stauber.
The long days and breakneck pace of Washington are especially tough on freshmen Congressmen, but Stauber says his time on the police force actually prepared him well.
“Coming from a law enforcement profession you get that. My day started at 350am. This is the same in a very similar way. Busy meeting with people. You want to give them the time and it’s my job to make sure I understand the issue,” said Stauber.
But he’s also using that law enforcement background, to fight for the issue of the moment in Washington.
That’s why he made it the topic of his very first house floor speech.
“Believe it or not, drugs crossing the southern border, even make their way to northern communities, like my great state of minnesota,” said Stauber in his first floor speech. “During my 23 years as a law enforcement officer, i worked tirelessly to keep illegal drugs off the streets.”
Democrats in Congress accuse Stauber and other republicans of manufacturing a crisis at the border to get funding for the president’s long-talked-about wall.
But Stauber maintains it is a crisis, and a fight worth funding.
“What’s happening is the president has asked for $5.7 billion because the security experts on the border say that’s what we need. And that $5.7 billion is the starting point. The Speaker and others haven’t made a counter offer. I think that I would hope they want to come and negotiate with the administration because these 800,000 employees need to get paid,” said Stauber.
Eight more days had passed since we sat down with the Congressman, and still no sign of a shutdown conclusion.
And while the border remains the big national story, Stauber says he remains focused on doing what’s best for the people who sent him to Washington.
“I’ve said Dan, I’m not bringing a red playbook or a blue playbook to Washington. I want to do whats best for the people in the 8th district,” said Stauber.