MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It's Round Two for the most contentious 2014 Congressional race in Minnesota -- Republican Stewart Mills made it official today.
He's running against Democrat Rick Nolan for Congress in 2016. He says he is prepared to fight what he predicts will be a campaign as personal as the last one.
"They just tried to hammer me down as much as they could, personally," Mills said, "dropping anvil after anvil on my head. It was nothing on the issues."
What's different this year, says Mills, is no Democratic Senator Al Franken at the top of the ticket, which he believes helped Nolan eke out a 1 1/2 point victory.
"The pendulum in the 8th district does not swing that much," he said, promising a much more aggressive get-out-the-vote effort than in 2014. "What we are looking at here is kind of the perfect combination where it is Rick Nolan head to head. And the the conservative voters are going to turn out with the similar intensity as the liberal voters and what happens at the top of the ticket will not matter as much."
Mills says many of the campaign issues will be the same: Replacing the Affordable Care Act with a private-focused alternative, including Health Savings Accounts and the ability to buy catastrophic health coverage across state lines. He says he'll make "replacing Obamacare" a focus.
He'll also try to change the Iran Treaty, which Nolan supported and for which a conservative group launched a tough anti-Nolan ad.
Mills also says he will make the 2nd Amendment part of the 2016 race. He says he would not change any gun laws, despite pressure to do so after multiple mass shootings around the country.
"You are never going to prevent evil, and people who are mentally ill are not by their nature, dangerous," he said.
Mills is part of the Mills Fleet Farm store family -- which sells guns -- and proudly owns many. This week, he posted a shirtless Twitter image of himself hunting, and he won't reveal how many weapons he owns.
"I own quite a few," he said. "I am a collecter. I am a sportman and a hunter. And I shoot competitively. A lot. And let's just leave it there."
Mills is sporting a new look too, having cut his famously long hair after a summer grilling accident. His hair was once the target of millions of dollars in negative ads from outside groups.
"My wife loves romance novels, and she loved the fact that I looked like Fabio," he said, "And she was the last person in the world who wanted me to get my hair cut. But finally I had this Fourth of July grilling incident, where I got a hot flash from a gas grill, and it took that for me to convince my wife that it was time for me to get a haircut."
Experts predict Minnesota's 8th District will be among the most competitive -- and expensive -- in the country.
"Rick Nolan is a sitting duck," said Larry Jacobs of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. "He's considered by Republicans and Democrats as one of the most vulnerable members of Congress up for election."
Congressman Nolan "welcomed" Mills to the race with a written statement:
"I welcome Mr. Mills III back into the race, and I'm looking forward to a positive campaign based on facts and issues affecting the voters in the 8th Congressional District -- a campaign very much different from the negative and misleading campaign Mr. Mills III and his allies have already launched against me here in the 8th District."
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