WASHINGTON -- Republican Stewart Mills said that if he was in Congress, he would vote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a position that distances himself from the Republican establishment.
Mills is in a bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan in Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District.
He has previously said he was leaning against supporting the trade deal, aggressively supported by the Obama administration and the business community, with 11 Pacific Rim nations. His campaign manager Charlie Szold told the Star Tribune this week that Mills took his time studying the agreement and wanted to talk to voters in his district about it.
"Stewart has thoroughly reviewed the agreement and has found the language of the Trans-Pacific Partnership not to be in the interest of our part of Minnesota, or our country," Szold said. "Stewart would like to keep an open dialogue with 8th district residents on this, and other important economic issues."
The pending trade deal, reached last year, may get a vote later this year in Congress, but mostly likely the next Congress will take up the TPP in an up or down vote.
Most Republicans have broadly supported the idea. GOP Reps. Tom Emmer, John Kline and Erik Paulsen all supported trade promotion authority, which allows Congress to set objectives for trade deals and allows yes or no votes on specific agreements.
The Democrats have distanced themselves including both Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken. Klobuchar has not said how she would vote and Franken says he has serious concerns about the deal. Democratic Reps. Nolan, Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison are against the agreement.
Further opening up trade is deeply unpopular in parts of Minnesota beset by job losses, including the Iron Range where more than 2,000 iron ore taconite miners have been laid off in the last year due to the softening demand for U.S. steel. This is caused mostly by China's sluggish economy, but miners view more trade agreements as harmful to their livelihoods.
Rep. Nolan has criticized Mills for being so slow to oppose TPP.
"I have actively opposed all these free trade agreements, Mills has not, he's been silent," Nolan said.