WASHINGTON -- In a debate early Tuesday in Duluth, GOP House candidate Stewart Mills said it wasn't accurate to portray him as aligned with the Tea Party.
"I keep getting accused (of) being a Tea Partyer and I'm not sure that's entirely accurate," Mills said, when answering a question about the virtues of the Keystone oil sands pipeline in a debate with Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan and Green Party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman.
A few hours later, the Tea Party Express threw its support behind Mills, saying he "isn't your typical politican. He is someone that understands hard work and will stop at nothing in order to fix a problem -- traits he picked up from his family's hunting-camp doctrine."
Coupled with the national endorsement, were statements of support by local liberty movement leaders, including Douglas Mickelson, a Tea Party activist in Walker, who said:
"As a hunter and gun owner I know Stewart will protect our Second Amendment rights and that excites me."
Mills' camp responded Tuesday, noting, "We welcome the endorsements of all political persuasions, from the National Rifle Association to the Farm Bureau, from the National Federation of Independent Businesses to the Fraternal Order of Police."
Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan and his GOP challenger Stewart Mills sparred over guns, Obamacare, tax reform and even engaged in a little class warfare at an early morning debate in Duluth.
The Eighth Congressional District fight is Minnesota's hottest race. Nolan is defending the seat he's had for just one current term against Stewart Mills, a 42-year-old political nascent and scion to Mills Fleet Farm.
Before it started, the debate had the trappings of being a little sleepy. It started at 8 a.m., the candidates sat down in a coffee table format, and the third-party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman also participated, slowing down the fiery dialogue between Mills and Nolan.
In spite of all that, Mills and Nolan drew sharp contrasts, lashing out at each other's differences on reforming the Affordable Care Act, copper-nickel mining and tax reform.
Nolan took multiple swipes at Mills' net worth, which is between $47 million and $153 million, according to personal financial disclosures.
"I know what it's like to build a business from the bottom up and create jobs ... but if we want to rebuild this middle class we need to get away from this trickle down theory," Nolan said, when asked about tax reform. "Stewart, you made more money ... sitting here in an hour and a half ... than the minimum wage earner will make in a week ... The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer."
Mills defended his company and his family, saying they work hard and play hard and building the business meant it "may get a little bit bloody sometimes." After noting the IRS has been "weaponized against the American people," Mills said he wanted to flatten the tax code to be friendlier to Main Street.
Throughout the debate, Mills referred to Nolan as "Representative Nolan' while Nolan called the third-party candidate "Mr. Sandman" and Mills "Stew" or "Stewart."
On guns, Mills touted his endorsement by the National Rifle Association and said Nolan's positions on banning semi-automatic weapons and limiting magazine capacity were not in line with the District's values.
"We need to enforce the laws we currently have rather than making up new ones," Mills said.
Nolan flared, "I don't need a semi-automatic rifle to shoot a duck," he said. "Maybe you do, maybe you should spend more time on your shooting range."
Polls show the Mills/Nolan race within a couple points of each other and national political forecasters call it a "toss-up." The Eighth Congressional District is politically whimsical, electing Republican Chip Cravaak in the 2010 Tea Party sweep and then elected Nolan two years later.
Nolan has consistently out-fundraised Mills, even though Mills has donated more than $150,000 of his own money to his campaign. Nolan's camp said yesterday the incumbent brought in $641,000 since July -- his best quarter to date. Mills' campaign declined to say how much the candidate raised in the third-quarter Tuesday.
Mills said he supported both the construction of the Keystone oil sands pipeline and the Sandpiper line, which will deliver crude from North Dakota to an existing terminal in Wisconsin. He said Nolan has been inconsistent in his support for the new lines.
"We're not quite sure where Rep. Nolan is," he said. "He can say he's for it right now, but where's he going to be tomorrow?"
Nolan said he also favored both projects as long as they followed environmental rules. Nolan said he grew up at a time when "condoms" and "turds" polluted rivers and acid rain was wreaking havoc on forests.
"I submit that we must be compliant with good, sound, environmental rules and regulations and we have the technology to move forward with mining," he said. "We need to protect our environment as well."
On Obamacare, Mills said he favored a health care plan that protects people with pre-existing conditions but supports reforming it, allowing people to buy and sell plans across state lines and tort reform.
Nolan, who favors a single-payer system, snapped, "Now Mills is saying he supports many of the things in the ACA and then he is saying he wants to repeal it. Talk about double-speak ... It's starting to smell like a barn on a warm Sunday afternoon."
WASHINGTON -- A Democratic poll released Wednesday showed Democrat Rep. Rick Nolan leading his GOP challenger Stewart Mills by 11 points, and Green Party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman garnering 7 percent.
The poll, paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was a survey of 405 likely voters in the Eighth Congressional District from Sept. 25-28. The survey's margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percent.
Of those polled, 48 percent said they favored Nolan and 37 percent supported Mills. Nine percent of those polled were still undecided, according to the survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.
The same tracking survey in July showed Nolan leading Mills by only two points, 43 to 41. At that time, Sandman was at 6 percent and 10 percent of voters were undecided.
"Nolan still has work to do, but he has withstood thousands of points of attack ads well," the pollster said in the memo.
Minnesota's 8th is considered among the state's hottest, with more than $2 million already pouring in from independent groups. Most political forecasters still dub it a "toss-up."
In campaign finance reports filed over the summer, Nolan had outraised Mills and had $624,000 on hand to the challenger's $356,617.
Fresh third-quarter reports will be released by Oct. 15.
WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's ten members of Congress on Tuesday collectively asked for a meeting with VA Secretary Robert McDonald to talk about recent reports of falsified records at Minneapolis's VA hospital.
The request comes after VA records showed a neurology exam for 25-year-old Jordan Buisman was rescheduled four days after his death. The former corporal had been told he'd have to wait almost 70 days to see a specialist at the Minneapolis VA neurology clinic for his epilepsy, which was the reason he left the Marine Corps. He died 24 days before his appointment.
Four days later, someone wrote in his VA records that Buisman had canceled his neurology appointment. The story was first reported by KARE TV.
The VA Inspector General's office is currently investigating allegations of falsified records and manipulation with scheduling data. The delegation, Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Reps. Tim Walz, John Kline, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Erik Paulsen, Collin Peterson, Rick Nolan and Michele Bachmann, requested a meeting with Secretary McDonald once the findings are released by the IG.
"We are deeply troubled by serious allegations of falsified records and manipulation of scheduling data at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs VA Health Care System," the delegation wrote.
VA Secretary McDonald, who was just sworn in a couple months ago, said over the weekend in a speech in Cincinnati that, "we know we have to work harder to earn that trust back one veteran at a time."
The Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee has offered to pay for firearms training for Democratic congressman Rick Nolan at the chain of retail stores owned by the family of his Republican opponent, Stewart Mills.
The offer came in response to a picture posted to Twitter on Wednesday showing the congressman holding an AR-15 rile with his finger on the trigger while surrounded by supporters.
Bryan Strawser, executive director of the Minnesota Gun Owners PAC, said Nolan’s actions were “unsafe and dangerous.”
Gun rights have emerged as a key issue in the Eighth Congressional District race. Mills released a campaign ad this summer that claimed Nolan is among the politicians who “have no respect for the Second Amendment.”
Nolan earned a ‘F’ rating The National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund, but dismissed Mills’ ad as a “big lie, smear tactic.” Nolan aides said the congressman declined comment on Strawser’s offer.
“The basic rules of firearms safety, taught to students as young as 12 in [Minnesota Department of Natural Resources] hunter safety classes, state clearly that one’s finger should be kept off the trigger until ready to shoot,” Strawser said.
“It’s nothing short of hypocritical for Mr. Nolan to be photographed at what appears to be a campaign event while holding an AR-15 rifle,” Strawser said. “Mr. Nolan has specifically called for a ban on the very rifle he is holding in this photograph.”
The Minnesota Gun Owners PAC offered to buy firearms training for Nolan at Mills Fleet Farm Indoor Shooting location in Baxter.
It’s the same shooting range where Mills, a company vice president, recorded an “open video letter” to Nolan and other Democrats in Congress, advocating for armed security in every school. He also argued against the push to pass gun control legislation in Congress, saying it “isn’t about controlling guns, it’s about controlling people and limiting your freedom.”
The video, which has racked up more than 307,000 views on YouTube, features a live-fire demonstration at the shooting range and may have unintentionally served as the soft launch for Mills’ congressional campaign. He officially entered the race five months later.
In the video, Mills notes that hunters can find an exclusive line of AR-15 sporting rifles at the location. But the political point was to challenge a Nolan assertion. During an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said that “I don’t need an assault rifle to shoot a duck.”