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Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan Won’t Seek Re-Election

8th District is top Republican target

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan will not run for re-election in November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan will not run for re-election in November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan announced Friday he won’t run for re-election, opening up a top targeted seat for Republicans in 2018.

“There is a time and a purpose for everything and now is the time for me to pass the baton to the next generation,” Nolan said in a statement. 

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor congressman, who’s serving his sixth nonconsecutive term, represents Minnesota’s 8th District, home to the Iron Range, where President Donald Trump won by 16 points in 2016. Nolan carried the district by half a point the same year.

Nolan faced a challenge for the DFL endorsement from former FBI counterterrorism analyst Leah Phifer.

Nolan’s strong retail political skills helped him twice defeat wealthy GOP businessman Stewart Mills. Those 2014 and 2016 races were among the most expensive in the country. Mills said on Twitter Friday afternoon he’s “seriously considering” running again. Mills said late last year he “probably” wouldn’t run for political office in 2018 and blamed the National Republican Congressional Committee for his narrow 2016 loss

National Republicans are excited about their recruit in this district. St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber got in the race last year. A former professional hockey player with the Detroit Red Wings operation, he’s a lieutenant in the Duluth Police Department. He ended 2017 with $137,000 in the bank. 

Nolan has always had to balance mining and environmental interests, which has sometimes compelled him to stray from his own party’s line. He’d recently been criticized by Phifer and others for siding too much with mining interests. 

Phifer praised Nolan in a statement Friday, but her campaign cast his retirement “as a unique opportunity to unite the DFL in the 8th District.” Phifer ended 2017 with just under $11,000. She’s unlikely to have the field to herself.

Former state Rep. Joe Radinovich said Friday on Facebook he was considering jumping in. Former state Rep. Carly Melin, state Rep. Jason Metsa, and former Nolan director Jeff Anderson could be other contenders for the DFL endorsement.  

Following the announcement, Inside Elections With Nathan L. Gonzales changed the race rating from Leans Democratic to Toss-up.

Nolan had considered running for governor in 2018 but decided against it last June, citing his role in the House. 

But his decision not to seek re-election isn’t a complete surprise. After passing on the gubernatorial bid, he’d suggested he would seek another term, but didn’t ever say so explicitly. Asked if he was planning to run for re-election to the House, Nolan would often say, “Those are my intentions.”

Nolan was first elected to the House in 1974. He left Congress voluntarily after three terms, but he said at the time his in the institution had strained his personal life, leading to a divorce from his first wife. 

In an interview last fall, Nolan again mentioned how taxing the back-and-forth commute can be.

“If I were a young man with a family, there’s no way on Earth I would do this,” Nolan said, noting it’s an eight-hour trip door-to-door. 

Nolan cited his family in his Friday statement as one reason he’s leaving Congress. His daughter has stage four lung cancer. 

“To be sure, I’m really going to miss representing the 8th District, but it is time for me to spend more time with my wonderful wife, Mary, our four fantastic adult children and their terrific spouses, and our 13 remarkable grandchildren,” Nolan said.

“They have been incredibly patient and supportive. Now it’s time for me to respond in kind, and give them the attention they deserve and I want to give,” Nolan added. 

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