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Democrats endorse Nolan for re-election, pay tribute to Oberstar

NASHWAUK — News of former Rep. Jim Oberstar’s death on Saturday heightened emotions at the DFL 8th Congressional District convention in Nashwauk, where U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan was endorsed in his bid for re-election.

Nolan, the rural Crosby businessman who started a second stint in Congress after unseating Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack in 2012, said he had known the longtime 8th District congressman and fellow Democrat since the two were young staffers in Washington, D.C., 50 years ago.

In his acceptance speech Saturday at the Nashwauk Recreation Center, Nolan grew emotional as he remembered Oberstar. At Nolan’s urging, the DFL delegates gave the late congressman, who died Saturday at his Maryland home, a standing ovation.

Many delegates learned about Oberstar’s death after arriving at the convention, which opened with a moment of silence.

State Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, read a message from U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.

“We lost a giant last night,” Franken wrote of Oberstar’s death.

Radinovich urged the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to unite in a common purpose “to send Democrats like Rick Nolan to Congress” in November.

Nolan’s Republican opponent is Stewart Mills III, vice president for the Mills Fleet Farm chain of outdoor and home variety stores.

Nolan, who previously served in Congress from 1975 to 1981, said his generation had benefited greatly from America’s bounty and was bound to see that similar opportunities are available to younger generations.

“That’s what the DFL is all about, paying it forward,” he said in his address.

He said that in today’s economy, the middle class is getting crushed while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. He criticized the disproportionate amount of taxes middle-income earners pay compared to millionaires.

“Nobody’s suggesting we should be punishing the rich in America,” he said. “How about having them pay their fair share?”

Nolan accused conservatives and Republicans of waging a war on women, workers, the environment and President Barack Obama.

“They are shameless,” he said. “They are unrelenting and that is our challenge.”

Nolan criticized Mills for his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, calling for continued improvement of the health care law.

“We’re not done with this thing until we have single payer, universal (health system),” he said.

Nolan credited Minnesotans’ efforts to achieve marriage equality and stop voter suppression, and pledged to protect the state’s land, air and water.

Calling the current Congress the most unproductive in history, Nolan said he worked hard to secure an amendment that shut down the lock and dam at St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis as part of the state’s “last, best chance to stop Asian carp,” an invasive species. He also noted that he helped secure $10 million to expand the Duluth harbor.

Nolan backed a higher minimum wage and criticized his Republican opponent for opposing an increase.

In a brief interview, Nolan said he was ready to debate Mills but wasn’t sure it would happen because Mills seemed to have set so many conditions.

“I’m available,” he said, joking that the only venue he might veto was a Mills family reunion.