Edwards vows to protect mining, outdoor recreation on Iron Range

By Chris Williams

Associated Press

HIBBING, Minn.-- Thousands of people in this Iron Range town turned out Tuesday night to hear vice presidential candidate John Edwards promise that the Democratic ticket would fight for the taconite mining industry.

Edwards, greeted by a crowd with a heavy union presence, said the United States must do a better job of enforcing trade agreements covering the steel industry. He said American workers need protection from the unfair practices of other countries and that he and presidential nominee John Kerry could deliver on that.

"We understand the importance of the steel industry," the North Carolina senator said. "We are going to stand up and fight for your jobs."


A crowd estimated at 5,700 jammed into Hibbing Memorial Arena, a storied venue in this town's history -- both for hockey and politics. The arena once played host to campaign rallies by both Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy.

"This arena is the Democratic Party's good-luck room," former Vice President Walter Mondale said in introducing Edwards.

Edwards also played to the crowd's love of the outdoors, promising that a Kerry administration would protect their right to hunt and fish, and their right to snowmobile in nearby Voyageurs National Park.

He otherwise stayed with the familiar themes of his campaign, among them the contention that the Bush administration has mismanaged the war on terror -- particularly in Iraq.

"Over and over again, George Bush and Dick Cheney have proved their incompetence," he said.

Edwards also criticized the Bush administration's handling of the economy, saying the number of jobs in the country has shrunk over the past four years.

"What would be good for our economy would be to outsource George Bush and Dick Cheney," he said.

Each criticism was greeted by loud applause.


The evening's partisan tone was set earlier by state Sen. David Tomassoni, a DFLer from Chisholm. In reference to the arena's stature in this hockey-crazed town of 18,000 -- and to Kerry's school-boy days as a hockey player -- he said, "Our guy was a hockey player. George Bush was a cheerleader. Who would you rather have?"

As Edwards spoke, the Iron Range and the surrounding area were about to be bombarded by a radio ad questioning the Democratic ticket's commitment to northern Minnesota.

The Minnesota Taxpayers League's first broadcast ad of the campaign, to debut Wednesday and run through Election Day, attacks John Kerry as a "Massachusetts liberal" who would take away northerners' snowmobiles and guns and be bad for logging and mining.

"Imagine John Kerry in the White House," the ad says. "Mining? It's hard enough hit already. Logging? How many spotted owls does it take to ruin an economy. Hunting? Hello gun control. Snowmobiling and ATVs? Say 'Bye-bye."'

David Strom, the group's president, said the ad would run a total of 500 times in the markets of Duluth, Cloquet, Virginia, Hibbing, Ely, International Falls, Grand Rapids and Brainerd. Strom said the buy cost the group $8,000.

The Iron Rangers who turned out on a cold and drizzly evening showed they were following the race closely.

Jeff Steryl, a CPA from Chisholm, said he wouldn't miss the chance to see Edwards.

"I've been a Democrat all my life. When something like this happens in your backyard, you've got to take advantage," he said.


Sen. Norm Coleman weighed in on the event, issuing a statement that said the Kerry-Edwards ticket is opposed to a ban on so-called partial-birth abortion and has an "F" rating from the National Rifle Association. The Republican also said the two helped to block an energy bill that contained millions of loan guarantees for a proposed project in the region.

What To Read Next
Get Local