Republican congressional candidate Stewart Mills III is standing by an attack ad that has drawn fire from a powerful Iron Range union.
Attacking Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan as an out-of-touch D.C. politician, the 60-second commercial suggests that he ignores labor interests in his northern Minnesota district.
"Rick Nolan doesn't have any sense of what's going on in northern Minnesota," said Steve Biondich, a steelworker from Aurora and treasurer of United Steelworkers Local 6115.
"Since Rick Nolan's been elected, I haven't seen him once in the Iron Range. He's gone to Washington. He's part of the problem. Jobs aren't being created. The wages aren't going up. People are having a hard time paying the bills."
High-ranking United Steelworker leaders took issue with Biondich’s claims, arguing that his statements are manufactured.
“Nobody has been a stronger advocate for the Iron Range than Rick Nolan. If Steve hasn’t seen Nolan on the Range then he has either been asleep or not paying attention,” said John Rebrovich, assistant to the director of the United Steelworkers’ nine-state District 11.
Mills campaign spokeswoman Chloe Rockow said: “Steve's comments in the ad are reflective of what we hear over and over again from Iron Rangers. Unlike Rick Nolan, Stewart Mills will put actions behind his words when he says he supports the Iron Range.”
In the spot, Biondich also urged voters to look past party affiliation when deciding which candidate is best for the Eighth Congressional District, but he’s a GOP supporter. He donated to the 2010 campaign of former GOP congressman Chip Cravaack, who Nolan unseated in 2012.
"The ad speaks for itself," Biondich wrote in an email to the Star Tribune.
Biondich, 33, also took heat from the DFL for postings on his Facebook page, including a suggestion that if a woman wants to walk down the aisle, “send that (expletive) grocery shopping.”
The state DFL hosted a rally in Duluth on Friday, with women demanding that Mills account for the content on Biondich’s social media page.
Biondich declined to comment his social media posts and directed questions to Rockow.
“While Stewart and his wife don't agree with the comments in question, I think it's hypocritical for Democrats to target Stewart here while Rick Nolan has campaigned with a convicted sex offender,” Rockow said.
Amid GOP criticism, Nolan ultimately canceled a planned fundraiser with Peter Yarrow, the singer from the 1960s band Peter, Paul and Mary, who admitted in 1970 to having improper relations with a 14-year-old girl.