Nolan says he'll run again in 2016

Reached late last week after the Supreme Court ruled to allow gay marriage nationwide, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan recalled a highlight moment from 1972. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party state convention that year was in Rochester, where the party adop...

Rep. Rick Nolan kicks off his 2014 campaign with a rally in Duluth in June 2014. At left is Duluth Mayor Don Ness. Nolan says he plans to run for a third term serving the 8th District in 2016. (News Tribune file photo)
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Reached late last week after the Supreme Court ruled to allow gay marriage nationwide, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan recalled a highlight moment from 1972.
The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party state convention that year was in Rochester, where the party adopted a controversial plank supporting full civil rights for gays and lesbians.
“That was 43 years ago,” said Nolan, then a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. “I’ve been a supporter of marriage equality from the very beginning of my career in public service.
“Everyone should have equal rights under the law and all privileges made available under the law regardless of race, creed or sexuality,” he continued. “This is a great victory - an important victory.”
Now in his fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives - and his second representing the 8th Congressional District - Nolan told the News Tribune he’ll run again for the 8th District seat in 2016.
“I am absolutely running again,” the 71-year-old Nolan said. “I’ve already got a campaign staff and the basics put together. We’re raising good money, putting on good events, and we’re going to have a real aggressive field campaign, a real grassroots campaign.”
It’s unclear at this point who Republicans hope or plan to put up to face Nolan. Nolan said he has heard “different stories” about a repeat bid from Stewart Mills, the Mills Fleet Farm heir and executive who Nolan narrowly beat for the 8th District seat in November, 48.5 percent to 47.1 percent.
The race was notable for having brought in more than $10 million in outside campaign money. Mills pulled down his campaign website, but - for readers of tea leaves - he still has a campaign Facebook page with an entry as recent as May.
Mills told the News Tribune on Tuesday that he’s considering running for the seat again but has not yet made a decision.
“He ran a good race; Mills is a good name in this state,” Nolan said. “But they threw everything they had at it - Republicans were winning all over the country - and they couldn’t pull it out.”
Gary Bergquist, chairman of the Duluth Republicans, said it’s too soon to tell who the Republicans will send against Nolan.
“Since the 8th District is such a large geographic area, there are lots of different people - a lot of state representatives in the area - we can look at bringing farther up the ladder,” he said. “It will be a few months before opposing candidates start putting out feelers for support staff.”
Battles in Washington
As his campaign revs its engine, Nolan remains busy in Washington, D.C. He joined most House Democrats in voting against giving President Barack Obama power to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potentially landmark 12-country trade agreement with the Pacific Rim. The bill passed the House and Senate and was signed by the president Monday. Secret details of the partnership aren’t what bother Nolan most; it’s what’s not a part of the TPP that rankles him.
“It’s classified, but they can put me in jail if they want: I’ve seen nothing in that (agreement) that provides any kind of pretense for protection of wages and benefits,” Nolan said. “My experience in following the few protections that are in there are (that) they’re largely ineffectual in terms of any kind of enforcement. It’s a bad deal for our country and a bad deal for our future.”
Nolan fears American workers will be priced out of manufacturing and production jobs because they won’t be able to compete with countries whose workforces don’t have the higher wages, benefits and safeguards such as those built during generations in the United States. The White House full-court press in favor of TPP is unprecedented, Nolan said.
“It’s turning our back on all the great progress we’ve made, and it’s a race to the bottom and it’s tragic,” Nolan said, while adding he’ll fight TPP once it’s submitted to Congress for final approval.
“We’ve got another shot at this,” he said.
Nolan sounded frustrated, too, by House Speaker John Boehner’s unwillingness to allow the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee a chance to write legislation to fund the nation’s roads and bridges. The current two-year transportation bill expires July 31.
Nolan, a committee member, said Boehner “keeps acquiescing” to the Tea Party and won’t let the committee write a bill, preferring “kick-the-can” extensions at current funding levels.
“What’s sad is if the Republican leadership would allow the transportation committee to write a bill we could come up with a bipartisan, long-term, well-funded plan for the future,” Nolan said.
Nolan has said $1 trillion is necessary to fund long-term improvements, and he supports the president’s plan to fund infrastructure by collecting tax on profits U.S. corporations are holding overseas.

Balancing work, family
After announcing in January that the youngest of his four grown children, Katherine, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, Nolan continues to make weekend trips home a priority.
He called the News Tribune from a grandson’s AAU basketball game in St. Cloud.
“I’m with her today,” Nolan said of Katherine. “For someone given her diagnosis and prognosis, she’s doing remarkably well. In addition to treatments, she’s made significant lifestyle changes - changes in the way she eats and deals with stress. It all seems to complement her treatment.”
Feeling vital and brimming with ideas - he’s still trying to gain traction with his Restore Democracy plan that would reform campaign financing - Nolan said he looked forward to governing beyond next year.
“I’ve never been more determined in my life to get this thing back on track,” Nolan said. “The country has been good to my generation. Seeing us turning our backs on this and future generations, I can’t stand back idly without fighting.”

This story was corrected from a previous version. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar voted against Trade Promotion Authority (fast-track), which now requires that the Trans-Pacific Partnership be considered with little debate and no opportunity for amendment. It is not known when TPP will be presented to Congress.

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