Mills opts out, leaving Stauber for GOP nod in MN-8

Stewart Mills

As coverage of the suddenly open Congressional seat in Minnesota’s Eighth District intensifies around the DFL candidates, Republicans had also been waiting to see who was in and who was out.

Well, their math got easier today. Yesterday Stewart Mills III, twice a candidate for the job, announced he was sticking with his original decision to stay out of this year’s race.

Paul Walsh of the Star Tribune reported the news:

On Tuesday, Mills said he chose to stay on the sidelines “based off of ‘hard data.’ I finished my review of that data and completed other due diligence [Monday] night and have decided not to run. I owed it to my supporters to take this consideration very seriously; many of those supporters got behind me all the way back in 2013.”

Mills’ explanation on Facebook did not elaborate on what data specifically he reviewed.

That means Pete Stauber has a clear path to the GOP nomination for Congress. He now boasts the advantage of avoiding the ruckus that will mark the crowded DFL race.

Stauber, a St. Louis County Commissioner and longtime Duluth police captain, already seemed to enjoy the support of state and national Republicans in his bid for the job. That support will soon be made official with the party endorsement at the upcoming Eighth District GOP convention.


The only other possible challenger to Stauber mentioned by pundits was State House Speaker Kurt Daudt, who lives just inside the Eighth District. Daudt, however, is still considering a run for governor as well. With passing time he seems less likely to entertain a run for Congress. But Daudt is a big enough name he could come in and contend.

I will say that all the Republicans I talk to around Northern Minnesota seem to like Stauber. I would expect him to be the nominee at this point.

You can follow the latest MN-8 news at my special coverage page.


  1. As I said below, there is considerable incentive for Daudt, if he has ambitions for higher office, to run this year, while he is fresh from the triumphs of retaking and then holding the MN House. In many ways, I would think that the Senate seat currently held by appointee Tina Smith would be the most attractive target for him, while I think governor is probably the least. CD-8 would be somewhat in between. He would certainly emerge as the strongest candidate for the GOP nomination if he were to enter.

    I do agree that the GOP leaders in the area seem to be satisfied with Stauber as a candidate. He has a record of very far right activity in the days before he held office that should appease the very strong GOP far right in the district, but his reputation in office has been more moderate and lower profile.

    Running against a somewhat disorganized (many would argue that that is baseline status for them) DFL would be a big help. The yes or no to non-ferrous mining battle and the absence of any big names in the DFL race so far are all big pluses for Stauber, as is the likelihood of Sandman taking a significant block of votes from the DFL candidate. The last is reduced with the withdrawal of Nolan, but if the DFL nominated a pro-copper mining activist the risk would increase again. On the other hand, an anti-copper mining person would certainly throw some votes to Stauber.

    IMO this year this race is the DFL’s to win or lose, but there are a lot of factors that could lead to the DFL shooting itself in the foot. Stauber is as good a candidate as any to benefit from that.

  2. Gerald S says:

    25 years ago the Minnesota GOP leadership contained Arnie Carlson, Rudy Boschwitz, David Durenburger, Vin Weber, and Elmer Anderson. Nationally the Party had leaders like George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, Arlen Spector, and Warren Rudman. Richard Luger and Alfonse D’Amato were considered far right Republicans based on their voting records among GOP senators.

    The current mainstream GOP leadership in MN and nationally inarguably represents positions which would have been to the right of all but a few of the GOP elected politicians of 25 years ago. The far right wing of the Party both in Minnesota and nationally — Michelle Bachman and Matt Dean spring to mind — would have been considered in to be very very extreme at that time. Today, Paul Ryan, with his Ayn Rand philosophy and his stated desires to privatize Medicare, introduce massive cuts in Medicaid, and restructure Social Security to eliminate much of the benefits for many retirees, is right in the middle of the GOP, whereas in 1993 he would have been considered a leftover John Bircher and those positions political suicide. Trade wars, treaty abrogation, and outright opposition to legal immigration are all mainstream Republican positions today. In 1993 the GOP was the party of free trade, of international trade treaties, and of legal immigration and of welcoming refugees (from Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, and other communist countries.)

    Returning back to the topic at hand, Pete Stauber and Becky Hall were the co-founders and leaders of one of the two “Tea Party” organizations in Duluth back in the end of the last decade. As part of that movement, Stauber made many public pronouncements that expressed views well to the right. After being elected to the county board, Stauber became much less forward with those ideas, and functionally much more moderate. “Board Stauber” is only mildly to the right of midstream in the impression he gives. Unfortunately for his future campaign, in this day and age the activity and statements of “Tea Party Stauber” are still easily retrievable by interested people, and, if he indeed becomes the GOP candidate for CD8, there will be many people very interested in sharing those comments with the public. At that point, Stauber will be put in the position of having to decide what to do: claim a conversion and renounce his former positions, or defend those positions as representing his true beliefs. If he picks the first choice, he risks alienating a large segment of his hard core base. If he picks the second, he risks alienating large numbers of independent voters, conservative Democrats, and even moderate Republicans he definitely needs to win.

    I am certain that Stauber feels that in an ideal world his previous incarnation would vanish. Unfortunately for him, that is not going to be a choice.

    None of this is to argue that this will be fatal politically, or that many people do not agree with the right wing GOP, or even that the ideas are wrong, I have no doubt that some of those on this blog would and probably will spring to the defense of those ideas. What I am talking about is how these views, if they become part of Stauber’s positions or — indeed — if they are rejected as positions by him, will affect the campaign.

    This race is going to be interesting to watch.

    • David Gray says:

      Wordy but pointless.

      Eight years ago Obama was a homophobe because he was opposed to homosexual psuedo-marriage. Fifty years ago Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson and Hubert Humphrey were all opposed to abortion. Thirty years ago Barbara Jordan wanted to do something about illegal immigration. Etc. And no Democrat wanted to let boys into girls locker rooms just because the boy said he wanted to be a girl.

  3. Gerald S says:

    On social issues, I agree that LGBTQ rights have progressed to an almost unrecognizable degree, with the majority of people under 45 who identify as conservative and Republican now favoring same sex marriage and other rights, so you are right about that. I suspect that the issue there is not political, but the impact of large numbers of people “coming out” revealing that so many people everyone considers perfectly normal are LGBTQ, making the demonization that occurred in the past seem silly.

    Although many Democrats personally oppose abortion for themselves, no major Democratic leader has opposed abortion rights for decades, not since the Supreme Court decision. The shift has been the elimination of GOP leaders who supported abortion rights. Twenty five years ago, the current GOP efforts to force Planned Parenthood out of birth control and wellness care would have been seen by most GOP as very far right indeed, and GOP attacks on birth control in general would have seemed crazy and politically suicidal.

    No one favors illegal immigration, but Ronald Reagan sponsored a major amnesty for long term residents of the US during his administration, allowing millions to become citizens despite being undocumented. Both George Bushes, McCain, Romney, Graham, and many other GOP leaders have backed immigration reform that includes some level of normalization for long term residents. And no respectable GOP political figure opposed legal immigration until the last two or three years.

    Favoring free trade is an important historic GOP issue and litmus test.

    The core ideas of the Affordable Care Act — abolishing pre-existing conditions, community rating, use of exchanges and subsidies, and a mandate to buy insurance, all using private companies — were devised by the Heritage Foundation in response to the Hillary Care program in 1993, and adopted by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. Romney’s speech at the signing of the law cited it as a “Republican approach to health care.”

    For decades, both parties used to agree on support for Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, public health clinics, and Social Security, until the GOP reversed itself recently.

    Both parties used to agree on clean water and clean air regulations.

    All that is now in the past, as the GOP moves right.

    Of course, 60 years ago Jim Crow was the law of the land and women could not hold most jobs, 100 years ago women could not vote, 125 years ago child labor was legal, and 160 years ago slavery was enshrined in the Constitution, so I agree that in some ways right wing ideas were more normal, if more extreme, then.

    But all of this argument is irrelevant to the topic at hand. The question here remains, how exactly will Stauber thread the needle among Republicans on far right issues and his own record without alienating enough voters to offset the votes whoever the DFL candidate is loses to the right or left on non-ferrous mining? And of course just how fast the tide is running against Trump and the national GOP by November, and will that make a difference?

  4. David Gray says:

    Well the Constitution didn’t permit slavery to be banned until 1808. I’m not sure I’d call that “enshrining” slavery in the Constitution.

    I don’t think most residents of the 8th District will share your idea of what constitutes “far right.” After all I’m old enough to remember Reagan being described as far right and authoritarian and the like.

    And you must be unfamiliar with Minnesota Politics if you argue all Democratic leaders supported abortion after Roe v Wade. This is not surprising.

  5. Gerald S says:

    The Constitution treated slavery as a normal part of the legal system and life in the United States, and made multiple references to and provisions for it. Ending slavery required amendment.

    Both parties used to have members who embraced the opposite stance on abortion as the party, but generally there have been no Democrats in Minnesota who have held statewide office who have opposed women’s right to make their own decisions about abortion, and no Democratic presidential candidate. The most classic example of this is Rudy Perpich, who personally opposed abortion but embraced policies that supported it. Oberstar always opposed abortion, but seemed to be careful never to cast a vote that actually changed policy. Lower level Dems in Minnesota have actually opposed abortion, but that acted as an impediment to advancement for them. Norm Coleman has always said his main reason for changing parties was his opposition to abortion made it impossible for him to advance in the DFL. For the GOP, there are still a couple of national politicians — Susan Collins most prominently — who support the right to choose, but generally failure to oppose abortion is political death for a Republican. And of course lately the party has become much more militant, extending opposition to include birth control.

    If you object to the term “far right,” let’s just say “Tea Party” instead, since that is the term that the group embraces with pride. So let’s say that Stauber’s Tea Party history, as well as the Tea Party history of other GOP candidates for higher office in Minnesota, may raise problems for them.

  6. David Gray says:

    JIm Oberstar

    Voted NO on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Jan 2007)
    Voted NO on allowing human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)
    Voted YES on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions. (Apr 2005)
    Voted YES on making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime. (Feb 2004)
    Voted YES on banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother’s life. (Oct 2003)
    Voted YES on funding for health providers who don’t provide abortion info. (Sep 2002)
    Voted YES on banning Family Planning funding in US aid abroad. (May 2001)
    Voted YES on federal crime to harm fetus while committing other crimes. (Apr 2001)
    Voted YES on banning partial-birth abortions. (Apr 2000)
    Voted YES on barring transporting minors to get an abortion. (Jun 1999)
    Rated 0% by NARAL, indicating a pro-life voting record. (Dec 2003)
    Rated 100% by the NRLC, indicating a pro-life stance. (Dec 2006)
    Prohibit transporting minors across state lines for abortion. (Jan 2008)
    Bar funding for abortion under federal Obamacare plans. (Jul 2010)

    And you don’t understand the Constitution on slavery.

  7. Gerald S says:

    The key fact about slavery and the Constitution is that prior to the passage of the 13th Amendment the terms “property” and “slave” were considered legally synonymous. Any Constitutional protection of property and property rights applied equally to slaves. That was the reasoning behind all of the long series of Supreme Court decisions, Dred Scott being the most famous, that occurred up to the beginning of the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation had to do specifically with the forfeit of property by people committing treason against the United States as a penalty for treason, which is why it applied only to states that were in rebellion. That is why every Constitution scholar of the time on both sides — abolitionist and slave holder — were in agreement that the Constitution had to be amended to end slavery.

    The “1808” clause is a reflection of the fact that when the Constitution was written slavery was rapidly becoming an economic failure in the United States, and that many people, including Jefferson and Madison, believed it would end eventually due to lack of financial viability. The point of the clause was to allow time to pass to have that happen. Then the cotton gin was invented, and slavery became very profitable, ending any hope that it would whither away. The clause was largely ignored, first by the abolitionists, who introduced an effort to abolish slavery in the first Congress under the leadership of Franklin and the more aggressive members of the Federalist Party, and then by the slavers, who certainly did not accept the idea that it made any ongoing discussion of abolition legitimate, a position that the Supreme Court consistently held as well.

    The 13th Amendment was passed because it needed to be passed, because everyone accepted the idea that slavery was protected by the Constitution. Many people tend to try to find excuses for negative things in US history, from slavery to the treatment of Native Americans to the disenfranchisement and abuse of working people. Unfortunately, it is our history, and failure to recognize it does not change it.

    Meanwhile, back on topic, Stauber is going to have to thread a needle between his supporters who find his role as a Tea Party enthusiast admirable and people among independents, moderate Republicans, and conservative Democrats who do not.

  8. David Gray says:

    “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

    It is odd to see someone argue that Taney was a flawless reader of the Constitution.

  9. Gerald S says:

    Justice Taney read the Constitution the way it was read by almost everyone at the time, the way it was applied to any number of laws that supported and aided the institution of slavery, and the way it was intended by all of our slave holding founding fathers and understood by the slavery opponents among the founders. We required the most bloody war in our history and an amendment to the Constitution to change that. This may not fit exactly with the myth we were all taught in 10th grade, but I doubt you could find an historian of Constitutional law who would disagree. The truly perverse thing about the Dred Scott decision is that it was NOT a perversion of the Constitution.

    Perhaps the most brilliant thing the founders incorporated in the Constitution was the fact that it could be changed. The 13th Amendment was of the most important changes we ever chose to make.

  10. MNsweetie says:

    The democrats have lost all moral standing.
    That is why the GOP is getting iron range support.

  11. Wow. The Dems have lost all moral standing? Hoping that is sarcasm but sadly doubt it is.

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