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“Rick Nolan’s duck gun is much more lethal and impractical than the so-called assault rifles that he would legislate away,” said Mills, sporting safety glasses. “Hopefully, this video letter will educate and inform our uninformed and misguided congressmen and senators about the issues.”
Nolan, in an interview, called the video “very misleading,” noting that an AR-15 is lethal at a much greater distance and has a larger ammunition capacity than a traditional shotgun. “Nobody has a problem with a [Minnesota] limitation of only three shells in your gun for shooting ducks,” he said. “But assault rifles, which are designed primarily for killing people, you can have as many rounds as you want. Are ducks more important than people?”
Mills declined to be interviewed for this article. But in e-mailed answers to written questions, he said that the gun issue, while important, is part of a broader conservative “respect” for the Constitution and limited government. Similarly, the “pillars” of his campaign reflect standard Republican positions against excessive taxes, regulations, spending and debt.
Pledges and clunkers
Mills also is running against the health care law, whose rollout has put Democrats on the defensive across the nation. The NRCC, targeting Nolan, recently challenged him to sign a “pledge” to run on the Affordable Care Act. Nolan, who has voted against 47 GOP measures to repeal or defund the law, said “I don’t need to sign a pledge.”
Sharpening the contrast to Mills’ small-government philosophy, Nolan boasts that he has steered $60 million in federal grants for worthy projects in the district, a record rivaling that of Oberstar.
Nolan also backs extending jobless benefits and raising the minimum wage, populist issues that Democrats have used to turn the tables on Republicans among blue-collar voters. Mills calls it a “stunning admission of failure” for Democrats to push for a higher minimum wage and extend jobless benefits under an Obama administration that has “managed the economy for the past five years.”
But Mills’ free-market philosophy is likely to be challenged by Democrats, who note that the Mills Automotive Group sold more than $3 million in inventory under Obama’s “Cash for Clunkers” program in 2009 and 2010.
Mills called the job stimulus program “another failed example of Washington, D.C., trying to legislate the free market.” His family business only took part, he said, “in an effort to protect employees and our customer base.”
Follow Kevin Diaz on Twitter @StribDiaz