Mills opts out of MN-8 run, hints at GOP woes

Stewart Mills

Stewart Mills announced Wednesday he would not seek the GOP nod in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District in 2018, ending the possibility of a Republican showdown in this tight swing district.

Wrote Mills in a social media statement:

I have decided not to have my name on the ballot this election cycle, this is not a cycle I feel comfortable with. In my study of this coming cycle, the Democrats have an impressive offensive strategy.

The best encapsulation of this was yesterday by Nathan Gonzales: “Democrats have an impressive group of challengers — retired Navy SEALs and Army Rangers, former CIA operatives, prosecutors and businesswomen and -men who have grown multimillion-dollar companies. Even a scientist who develops life-changing cures is among the fresh crop of Democratic recruits… these are serious individuals mounting credible campaigns.”

The Republicans, in my direct and personal experience, are recruiting folks without a strategy, polling, or an explainable path to victory. In my opinion, these candidates will be the sacrificial lambs the NRCC will build their incumbent protection strategy upon. If there is a meaningful change of leadership and priorities at the NRCC, I might be open to looking at another run in the 2020 cycle.

That’s a stunning rebuke from Mills, scion of the Mills retail and car dealership family in Brainerd.

Mills lost to U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN8) in 2014 and 2016. In the latter race, Mills came just 2,000 votes shy of the wily DFL incumbent but fell far behind President Trump’s solid majority in this Northern Minnesota swing district.

His statement spends considerable time complaining about the National Republican Campaign Committee’s strategy in his 2016 race. Mills said he might consider a run for the office again in 2020 if there is new leadership at the NRCC. That suggests he’s not betting too heavily on a Republican win this cycle.

This effectively cedes the GOP race for the Republican nomination to St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber of Hermantown, a Duluth police captain.


Nolan’s more immediate problem is in winning over his frustrated left flank, including supporters of former FBI analyst and Two Harbors native Leah Phifer, who is challenging Nolan for the DFL endorsement. Assuming Nolan prevails, he then must keep the left flank from seeking a third party option in the November 2018 election. If Nolan minimizes the damage from all this, he would be favored to win. If the damage from this process gets worse, Nolan’s got real problems.

But Stauber is a new candidate and we have yet to see how he’ll hold up to the klieg lights. Nolan has now endured three difficult campaigns in a row, always prevailing against the odds. If a Democratic wave forms, he could find himself rising victoriously from the muck once again.

Winters are long in Northern Minnesota. Much can change beneath the snow and ice.


  1. mike simpkins says

    I’m guessing this is a good news/bad news for the Stauber campaign. On one hand it looks like he won’t have a primary opponent, on the other hand he is reading an opinion from someone who has been through the electoral wars and it isn’t pretty.

  2. On the other hand Mills’ political instincts haven’t been pure gold. Leaving his hair long for his first run permanently shaped his image as something of a pretty boy.

  3. It’s probably not a great idea to talk about a candidate’s ridiculous hair style shaping his image. Just saying.

  4. David Gray says

    The DFL effectively used Mill’s appearance against him in their ads. Why deny it?

  5. I didn’t really care about his long hair. Aside from disagreeing with his campaign views, it was his comments on social media that were disturbing. A man of about 40 with five children who was glad his dad was still going strong working 60 hours a week so he could keep on playing Peter Pan and very unsavory remarks about women didn’t say mature adult to me. More like entitled rich kid very slow to grow up. I’d be really ashamed of my grown kids if they had done the same.

  6. David Gray says

    I wasn’t saying his hair hurt him with fringe left wing voters but with normal people.

  7. LOL, I have a hunch you think most liberals/Democrats are fringe left and not “normal”.

  8. As far as Mills’ general diagnosis for the GOP, that is almost certainly true right now. The polling for the GOP — generic ballot, party identification, approval of the President, and approval of the GOP Congress and its programs — is not just bad, it is much worse than before the last three great midterm disasters, 2006 for the GOP and 2010 and 2014 for the Dems. But the emphasis should be on the words “right now.” There is a lot of time to go before November 2018, and a lot can happen. At this time in 2013, the GOP seemed headed for disaster, but that disaster evaporated and reversed into a Dem wipeout.

    In CD8, as Aaron says, the key to the race will be how the environmentalist faction of the DFL reacts to a Nolan-Stauber-Sandman race. If Sandman doubles his 2014 total, a real possibility, then he will hand the race to Stauber. If the environmental voters decide that Stauber is at least as bad for their cause as Nolan and that he stands against them on a lot of their other important issues, they may decide that other issues — health care, immigration, international and military issues, education, and so on — are important too, and hold their noses and vote for Nolan. In fact, even on environmental issues other than mining, like global warming and climate change, water and air pollution from other industry and from cars, renewable energy, and others, Nolan is much more in line with them than Stauber

    Meanwhile Stauber will have to deal with the fratricidal battles within the GOP that are roiling the party now that it has actually gotten control.

    This is going to be interesting. Both parties are to some extent their own worst enemies, and it remains to be seen which party will do the most harm to itself. I certainly cannot predict at this point.

    • “The polling for the GOP…”
      We can only assume Gerald refers to the same MSM polling which polled a runaway for Crooked Hillary, and therefore any comments based on such are….poof. Gerald still doesn’t get it.

  9. And Aaron, why not go the whole nine yards and say “Ocho Frio.” I hereby relinquish all rights to the phrase, so use it with impunity. Just another way of talking about life here south of the border — the Canadian border — in Baja Canada.

  10. Well, after last night it appears that Mills’ trepidation about the GOP position in current electoral politics was well grounded in reality. Although the governorship elections were really no surprise, despite efforts by the far right to suggest otherwise, the tidal wave that overtook the GOP in the Virginia House of Delegates, where they lost 16 seats and may lose a 17th in the counting of a very close election, was a shock, pleasant for Dems and miserable for GOPers. At best the GOP will have to share power in a tied legislature, and may lose control outright in what was previously seen as a totally safe majority position. There were also several spot upsets of Republicans in the Deep South that show the wind to be blowing pretty strongly right now. The fact that a 33 year old transgender woman who had never run for office defeated a 26 year veteran GOP stalwart for his Virginia House of Delegates seat pretty much says all that needs to be said.

    As I said at the top of this thread, there is a long time until November 2018, and things could change drastically. But for now, far right wingers’ frantic spin attempts notwithstanding, a GOP politician who does not want to waste 12 months of their lives on a disappointing fight against the tide is probably wise to sit this one out. Meanwhile, the results on Tuesday will undoubtedly bring a large number of enthusiastic Democrats out of the underbrush to make a run at what they will now undoubtedly see as the best opportunity for Democrats in a decade, especially in suburban and urban areas.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.