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Endorsement: Ignore the critics: The choice is Mills

Ray “Skip” Sandman, Rick Nolan and Stewart Mills debate on the Duluth Playhouse stage Tuesday morning. (Bob King /

Don’t believe everything you’ve heard about Stewart Mills — except that he’s the clear choice for voters on Nov. 4 to send to Washington to represent Northeastern Minnesota’s sprawling 8th Congressional District.

Don’t believe he’s a rich kid who never had to work a day in his life, as some have charged this election season. The truth is he scrubbed toilets and mopped floors for his family’s Mills Fleet Farm stores. And today he’s vice president in charge of administering a health plan for the chain’s 6,000 employees and their families. A job of such importance requires plenty of hard work.

Don’t believe that he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving health care reform in shambles, as others have said. The truth is Mills is a strong supporter of health care reform with some very specific, very good ideas about how to change it for the better.

“I am for health care reform … that actually brings down costs and increases access, and I’m also for the goals of the Affordable Care Act, which is making sure that people don’t have to worry about pre-existing conditions, lifetime maximums, or, if they have a catastrophic health condition, that they don’t have to worry about where the care is coming from,” Mills said in a candidate forum this week in Duluth sponsored by the News Tribune and the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. It very well may be the only debate in the 8th District this election. (Watch it, on-demand, at

Mills further said of health care reform that he supports “buying and selling insurance across state lines, tort reform, price transparency in the medical economy, and also more utilization of health savings accounts to put the power in the hands of the patient and the consumer. So it shouldn’t be between the patient and the government and the insurance company and the doctor. It should be between the patient and the doctor. We have to get back to what we stand (for) as Americans.”

First-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, meanwhile, has spoken in support of

government-run, single-payer health care, an option that could result in higher costs and poorer results.

Don’t believe critics who say Mills would privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid if elected. Even after the Republican nominee flatly denied it at Tuesday’s forum, Nolan continued to make the baseless accusation.

“Yes, there have been some Republicans that have advanced different ideas, but those are not me. For Rep. Nolan to attempt to put words in my mouth because somebody somewhere in the Republican Party advanced one idea — . You know what? I can only state what I believe and what I will stand for in Washington,” Mills said. “I believe in preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare.”

Critics also have charged that Mills has no clue about foreign policy. But when asked about the threat of ISIS, Mills offered a detailed, realistic and honest assessment while Nolan said, simply, we can’t afford wars overseas. As true as that may be, reality is dictating a different course.

“We don’t have a choice in this one,” Mills said. “They have a direct stated intention of attacking Americans (and of) attacking America and American interests abroad. The current track that we’re on is the right track because we need to leverage our air power we need to work with our allies in the region … making sure that we’re able to give them the training and the arms (and) the logistical support and the intelligence they need so this particular coalition can be successful in undoing our mistake of creating the vacuum (caused by the premature U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq). We don’t have a choice in this. We can’t bury our heads in the sand while there are people being beheaded — while there are Americans being beheaded.”

Don’t believe Mills is a spoiled elitist, either, as this fall’s bad-mouthing further has purported. We all have our less-than-mature moments, but at Tuesday’s forum, Mills was respectful, he listened politely when it wasn’t his turn to speak, and he consistently referred to his opponents as “Rep. Nolan” and “Mr. Sandman.” (Ray “Skip” Sandman of Duluth is the Green Party nominee in the 8th District. Voters can hope Sandman stays involved in public service after his thoughtful, sincere and genuine performance Tuesday.)

By contrast, at least twice Nolan cut off Mills while he was talking; referred to him at least once as “Stew”; talked about his “dad and your granddaddy’s store,” as though speaking to a small child; and on a couple of occasions turned to Mills and lectured him like he would an underling. The moments were disrespectful, rude, inappropriate and less than congressional.

And quite unexpected. Agree with him or disagree, Nolan has been a charismatic and likeable congressman. No one can question his hard work or dedication. And his term has had commendable moments, including helping to secure federal funding for dredging in the Duluth harbor, support for new jets and a long-term mission for Duluth’s 148th Fighter Wing, and his brave stand a year ago in opposition to President Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat, when invading Syria would have been the wrong move.

But Nolan also has an “F” rating from the National Rifle Association, giving pause to anyone concerned about the Second Amendment. He voted for a tax on carbon and energy even though it threatened to cripple northern Minnesota’s mining, wood-products and other industries, as Mills pointed out. And his support for precious-metals mining and pipeline projects has been inconsistent at best through the years, even if his words this week suggested unwavering support.

“If they want to pick on my hair, it shows they don’t want to talk about the issues,” Mills said, addressing yet another negative not to believe about him. “I’d love to talk about the issues, not about my hair and … my family.”

Mills certainly has a lot to talk about — and plenty to offer as the next representative in Washington, D.C., of Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District.

About this endorsement This endorsement was determined by Forum Communications management.