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Mills talks freely about 8th District prospects

Stewart Mills

Stewart Mills has had some time to think about his first run at public office, a narrow defeat last November at the hands of Rick Nolan for the 8th Congressional District.

"Really, I didn't lose that election so much as Rick Nolan rode Al Franken's coattails," said Mills, referring to the Minnesota senator's runaway 10-point victory being on the same ballot as the 8th District election. Mills cited the 1.4 percent gap between himself and Nolan and called it a "nail-biter."

On beating Nolan if given a second chance, Mills said, "I think it would be doable because neither (Mark) Dayton, Franken (nor) Klobuchar would be on top of the ticket if I run again. It would be between Rick Nolan and myself and the issues would largely be the same."

Of course, the Fleet Farm executive wouldn't use his workday Tuesday to announce his entry into the 2016 race.

"I'm definitely keeping my options open," Mills said. "I'm not ready to make a decision either way. We certainly had a great deal of support last time and came incredibly close."

Given the lens of time, Mills can see his first time around for the rich experience it was.

"I made a lot of friends throughout my political endeavor last cycle," he said. "As I move around that support is still there and then some."

He said it'd be much easier to mobilize a campaign this time around, even though he's currently the only one answering his campaign email. Everything else was shut down the week after the election.

The family business is in full swing, of course, adding to its 30-plus Mills Fleet Farm locations by opening a new store in Mankato — "we barely had carts to keep up with demand," Mills said — while planning to open one in Hermantown late summer or early fall in 2016.

"We're busy as all heck building a store in Hermantown," Mills said. "Hopefully, it will take off from day one."

Mills said he has time to make a decision about whether or not to run again. Last time around, he announced his candidacy a year out in June. He's missed that deadline as of today, so that's not going to happen this time around.

"I have the luxury of continuing to study the political landscape," Mills said.

He catches up on politics nights and weekends, he said. Amid the neverending topics, he sees familiar and still fertile territory.

"Rick Nolan has been very supportive of (Environmental Protection Agency) overreach and their clean water rule," Mills said, arguing it hurts the state's farmers. "Their clean water rule goes beyond what Congress and the courts intended. It should be left to the state and local watershed districts."

He rattled off positions on several other topics, blasting Obamacare and saying one-fifth of Minnesotans are on Medicare or MinnesotaCare — an untenable number, "something that is entirely out of control."

He rolled out Nolan's continued F-rating with the National Rifle Association and said, "National security is something Rick Nolan and I are 180 degrees opposite on."

Mills mentioned ISIS and domestic terrorism and said, "We have to deal with it now."

"If I run again," Mills said, "there is a path to victory. It would be a race almost directly between Rick Nolan and myself — without the worry about influence from the top of the ticket."

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