After two productive terms that show what a legislator in the minority can accomplish, Rep. Rick Nolan has proved that he deserves to continue representing Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District.

Nolan has shown tenacity and a willingness to build coalitions that should stand him in good stead. A good example was his work this year on behalf of the Brainerd Regional Airport that will wind up benefiting small local airports — and taxpayers — across the country by providing a way to avoid having common-sense improvements get bogged down in Federal Aviation Administration red tape.

Under FAA authority, a small hangar improvement at the airport would have cost $500,000. Nolan found that Minnesota’s own Department of Transportation could build the project for about a fourth of that price and still comply with federal regulations. His initial amendment got caught in wrangling between the House and Senate and failed. Nolan came back with a bill, worked with Republicans and Democrats and got a bill passed that requires the FAA to allow state agencies to handle airport projects when feasible.

When Chinese steel dumping was taking a toll on mining interests in the region, Nolan worked with the Obama administration toward a crackdown that imposed high tariffs and taxes that effectively curbed the low-grade steel imports that were harming the Iron Range economy.

On health care, Nolan remains an advocate for a single-payer system — a step the Star Tribune Editorial Board is not ready to take. But he also recognizes the need to address the problems in the Affordable Care Act, including cost controls, and the need for more competition and negotiated drug prices.

Nolan, 72, noted that the University of Virginia’s Legislative Effectiveness Scores named him one of the 10 most effective members of Congress in 2015.

Republican challenger Stewart Mills, 44, believes this nation can “grow our way out” of its trillion-dollar deficit. He favors what he calls “true free trade,” which he says would mean “no government subsidies, no tariffs.” He supports a flatter tax, but is unwilling to commit to preserving the Earned Income Tax Credit, saying only that he’d “have to look at it.” The credit benefits more than 360,000 low- and moderate-income Minnesotans.

The Editorial Board has never endorsed previously Nolan for Congress, either in his last two terms or when he served in the 1970s. But he has done well by his district and the state, and has earned re-election.