Mills Fleet Farm Vice President Stewart Mills III said on Tuesday that he plans to challenge Minnesota Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan in the coming election.
“It’s the right message at the right time in the right fashion, and I’m looking forward to getting that message out,” said Mills, who will file his candidate papers next month. The Republican, who won Internet fame for a video he released about gun rights, has long been considering a run but has not spoken for the record about his formal plans until now.
Mills, who considers his lack of political experience a plus, will run in a northern district once considered a Democratic stronghold that has flipped between parties lately. Nolan, who served in Congress decades ago and returned this year, wrested it from one-term Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack after a pitched multimillion-dollar battle that drew national attention.
Nolan is taking Mills’ campaign in stride so far.
“Congressman Nolan welcomes anyone to the race who is willing to run for public office, but his sole focus will continue to be on governing and doing the job he was elected to do — not campaigning. There’s more than enough full-time campaigning going on these days,” Nolan spokesman Steve Johnson said.
Mills, 41, of Nisswa, Minn., said now is the right time to launch his campaign. He said he was inspired to go public with his political views after the congressional gun debate that followed last year’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
The retail chain executive and father of five at one point released an “open video letter” to Congress featuring shooting at an indoor Mills Fleet Farm range. The video compared the shots from a duck hunting shotgun to a Huldra AR-15 rifle to show that the duck gun was more destructive than the AR-15.
“Gun control isn’t about controlling guns — it’s about controlling people and limiting your freedom,” Mills said in his video, which has been viewed nearly 300,000 times. “We need to stand up for liberty and freedom and ability to defend ourselves in the way that we see fit.”
Mills said if elected to Congress he would defend the Second Amendment, promote market-based health care and work to lift business regulations. Mills said he opposes abortion rights.
He did not take a position on same-sex marriage because he said the state has already decided the issue. Such marriages are to become legal in Minnesota on Aug. 1.
Mills said he plans to fund some of his campaign but expects to rely largely on contributions.
“Am I going to self-fund to a large extent?” he asked. “No. I’m going to work for it.”
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @RachelSB