Former congressman in DFL tussle in the 8th District

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

Rick Nolan

Thirty years after Rick Nolan removed the photos from his U.S. Capitol office walls, the former Democratic congressman wants to go back.

Nolan is the DFL-endorsed candidate for Congress in the 8th Congressional District. The former three-term congressman is hoping to be matched against first-term Republican 8th District Congressman Chip Cravaack.

“People have a darn well pretty clear choice on this,” said Nolan.

But two Democrats, former Duluth City Council president Jeff Anderson and former state senator Tarryl Clark, also want a run at Cravaack, whose victory over former Congressman James Oberstar two years ago made national news.

But if the run-up to the Aug. 14 DFL primary raises bruises, the blows raining down won’t be his, Nolan insisted.

“I made it clear to my staff if anyone says an unkind word about Tarryl Clark or Jeff Anderson, fire them,” said Nolan.

Democrats must have party unity after the primary.

“If I’m fortunate enough to win it, I’d like to have Jeff and Tarryl helping me,” Nolan said.

Nolan, 67, former head of the Minnesota World Trade Center, originally did not intend to run for Congress, he said.

Instead, he and others worked to recruit a candidate, contacting younger area elected officials, he said.

But recruitment proved disappointing.

Clark’s move from the 6th District into the 8th District was deemed politically unworkable by some, Nolan said.

“So I gave it (running for Congress) some serious consideration for four or five months, and travelled around the district,” said Nolan.

“And I got a lot of encouragement” he said.

“The fact is this country has been very good to my generation, and the country is in trouble,” he said.

Nolan indicated a willingness to serve in Congress for a decade, if elected.

He retains his seniority, so would return as a fourth-term congressman, possibly snagging a committee chairmanship should Democrats retake the House, he said.

“Were I to show up as a rookie, needing to know where the bathrooms are, I wouldn’t be running at this time,” Nolan joked.

While confident he can beat his Democratic rivals, Nolan isn’t overconfident, he said.

“There’s still a lot of money to be spent between now and August 14th,” said Nolan.

Many voters will be introduced to the candidates through the candidates’ media campaigns.

Nolan, who has trailed Clark in fundraising, said his campaign has enough money to run a good media campaign.

“We may not have as much as some of the others, but we’ll have enough,” he said.

Nolan, who represented the old 6th Congressional District that did not contain Anoka, Chisago and Isanti counties, views the concerns of 8th District voters — worries over joblessness, the federal debt, the wars, growing inequity — as rippling across the district.

Regarding the important industry of mining, Nolan styled the policy difference among Anderson, Clark and himself as trivial.

Indeed, Republicans support mining, he said.

But Democrats are concerned, too, about the health of the miners, the health of the environment, said Nolan.

As to the hotly debated Polymet nickel mining proposal, Nolan believes nickel mining can be safely done.

“I believe the science and technology is there to do it,” he said.

On other issues, Nolan indicated he supported hunting and fishing and the rights of gun owners.

“I’m a Second Amendment guy. I hunt, I fish, it’s a big part of my life.” said Nolan.

“Those events are almost as sacred as Christmas and Easter — the hunting and fishing openers,” said Nolan, smiling.

Nolan called the federal debt “huge.”

“If it doesn’t get resolved, it seriously threatens our future,” he said.

Nolan speaks of ending “wars of choice,” pulling back U.S. military commitments, ending attempts at nation building, letting the Bush tax cuts expire, closing tax loopholes, as means of easing the national debt.

He said his approach would allow for additional spending.

Nolan opposes the proposed photo ID and same-sex marriage ban constitutional amendments appearing on the November ballot.

“I think at the end of the day they’re going to neutralize each other,” he said of the impact of the amendments on voter turnout.

Nolan expressed no qualms about returning to a highly partisan Congress.

Looking back, he was less troubled by the partisanship while serving in Congress than the influence special interests exerted on the process, influence that has only gotten stronger, he said.

The current schedule the House keeps — one in which business for the week is wrapped up in two days — is ridiculous. he said.

“Very few governing, and everybody is campaigning,” he said

Nolan views himself as better equipped to serve in Congress now than 30 years ago.

“Quite frankly, I feel better prepared today than I’ve ever been at any point in my life by virtue of the diversity and depth of my experiences,” he said.

“And, God willing, and the voters’ permitting, I would gladly serve another 10 years,” he said.

Nolan served in the Minnesota Legislature.

He and his wife, Mary, have been married for 27 years.

Republicans argue that Nolan offers a wealth of bad ideas from the past.

“Unfortunately for Rick Nolan, he’s still pushing the same bad ideas he was when he first went to Washington back in 1974,” said Pat Shortridge, Republican Party of Minnesota state chairman.

“The failed polices of the past are not what Minnesotans are looking for at this critical time in history,” he said.