Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan and Republican challenger Stewart Mills are locked in a tight race for U-S House in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District with only a few days to the election. The race is a rematch, with Mills — of Mills Fleet Farm fame — again trying to beat Democrat Rick Nolan, who defeated him in 2014.
A key question in the race is whether the Iron Range economy is turning around. Mills says, “If it is improving, nobody’s seeing it.” He points to Magnetation, the Essar Steel project, and Cliffs Natural Resources only rehiring miners in Minnesota because they shut down a mine in Michigan. Nolan responds his work to stop steel dumping by the Chinese put a thousand workers back on the job. He adds, “Things are gonna continue to get better and, before we’re done, we’re gonna have all the miners back to work.” Analysts say Donald Trump could pull votes away from Nolan. Nolan says he’s seen plenty of “Nolan” signs on the same lawns as “Trump” banners.
As a punctuation mark just days before the election, PolyMet on Thursday officially submitted its application for a permit to mine in northern Minnesota, a highly controversial project. “A big and historic step forward,” says Nolan, who adds “nobody has done more than yours truly in shepherding the process through.” But Mills points to another mining project, Twin Metals, that’s stalled in a legal dispute with the federal government. He says, “Congressman Nolan has been altogether ineffective when it comes to making sure that at least, at a minimum, Twin Metals gets a fair hearing.” Nolan responds he’s the one who got a hearing in Ely on the project when the government’s original plan was to only have a meeting in Duluth.
The 8th Congressional District extends all the way from the tip of Minnesota’s Arrowhead, down through Duluth and over to the Iron Range, then back down through north-central Minnesota all the way to the far northern edge of the Twin Cities metro area.
Hear MNN political reporter Bill Werner’s complete profile of the race: