Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan won his re-election bid for the U.S. House of Representatives seat for Minnesota’s 8th District. The 70-year-old politician beat Republican newcomer Stewart Mills in one of the nation’s most expensive congressional races this year.
The Mills-Nolan race in northeastern Minnesota was considered one of about two dozen House races that were truly up for grabs. Nearly $14 million was poured into the swing state race -- the bulk of which came from special interest groups and political organizations seeking to secure their party’s standing in Minnesota, according to the Campaign Finance Institute.
“The Democrats want to hold this [Minnesota seat] because it’s always been theirs,” David Schultz, a professor at Hamline University in Saint Paul, told local media. “The Republicans would love to be able to pick this off and flip that district permanently, and therefore change the demographics of that district for the next generation.”
The district was in Democratic hands for decades until it went Republican in the wave election of 2010. Nolan recaptured it for the Democrats in 2012. He previously served as a U.S. representative for Minnesota’s 6th District in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His politics are deep-blue: In earlier interviews, he’s argued that President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act doesn’t do enough to protect Americans’ health, and he has promoted gun control and called for more aggressive background checks. The Democrat earned the backing of Vice President Joe Biden, who attended a rally in the town of Hibbing last week.
Mills, the 42-year-old owner of the sporting goods chain store Fleet Farm, aimed to bring a fresher face to the GOP. His long hair earned him the nickname “Brad Pitt of the Republican Party.” The conservative businessman called for a “fairer, flatter” tax code and championed gun rights measures and the tapping of Minnesota’s mineral and timber resources.
Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, recently showed up in Duluth to thank Mills supporters. According to Politico magazine, “The GOP is seeking diversity of all sorts -- ethnic, gender, generational -- as it works to shed its image as the part of the stodgy white man … Having a guy who projects the youthful image of Mills can only help, GOP officials say.”