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Nolan beats Cravaack in Minnesota's Eighth District

Mary Nolan (left) watches as her husband Rick Nolan holds their grandson four-ye

Brainerd native Rick Nolan defeated Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., Tuesday returning the 8th Congressional District seat to the DFL column after a two-year absence.

Cravaack upset 18-term incumbent Jim Oberstar in 2010 to win a seat that had been held by a Democrat since shortly after World War II.

Citing the billions of dollars spent on campaigns, Nolan told the crowd of supporters at the Brainerd Hotel and Conference Center early Tuesday the influence of money threatens democracy.

“We need to change the way we do politics in this country,” he said.

He pledged the first bill he would introduce in Congress would be to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Stuart Rothenberg of the Roll Call and the Rothenberg Report wrote earlier this year that Nolan “spent a then-impressive $212,000 on his last re-election campaign but now agrees he he’ll need to spend closer to $3 million than $2 million to win.”

Early Wednesday, Nolan said his race was one of the most expensive in the country, probably costing more than $15 million in total.

With his team, he said he figured “they may outspend us but they’re never going to outsmart us or outwork us.

With almost 85 percent of the precincts reporting early Wednesday morning Nolan led Cravaack 176,930-146,695 or 54.49 percent to 45.18 percent.

The victory marked a return to the House where Nolan served from 1975 to 1981.

“I guess Yogi Berra would say ‘It feels like deja vu all over again,’” Nolan said.

Cravaack, Nolan said, was a perfect gentleman in his concession phone call and offered to help with a seamless transition to new representation in the 8th District.

Nolan said the way to get the United States back on its feet was to rebuild the middle class, end the top-down economy, end the wars of choice and nation-building and use the money to rebuild America’s infrastructure and help balance the budget. He also called for a fair tax system where everybody pays their fair share.

The second bill Nolan said he would introduce would be to provide public funding for public elections so officials would be beholden to the public.

He thanked several supporters and other DFL candidate, including Jeff Anderson, a former Duluth City Council member who attended the victory celebration and who campaigned for Nolan.

The 68-year-old, who graduated from Washington High School in 1962, appeared to take obvious satisfaction in returning to Congress.

“You don’t get into government and politics to be remembered well, but I’ve got to admit this feels pretty good,” Nolan said.

Supporters of Nolan, the Brainerd native who defeated two Democrats in a primary, met at the Brainerd Hotel and Conference Center. There also were reporters from four television stations from Duluth and the Twin Cities, the Duluth News-Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio. Television stations that traveled to Brainerd report on the 8th District race included KARE 11 and KSTP of the Twin Cities and WDIO and KBJR of Duluth.

DFL candidate Taylor Stevenson of Baxter, in his second bid for the Minnesota Senate, also mingled with supporters at the hotel.

Meanwhile Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., was meeting with supporters in Hinckley.

Dale Lueck of rural Aitkin, a candidate for the House 10B seat, said earlier in the week he planned to travel to Hinckley to attend the Cravaack event.

Cravaack, the Republican who unseated 18-term incumbent Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., in 2010, was seeking re-election to a seat that had been represented by Democrats since shortly after the end of World War II. The retired airline pilot lives in North Branch.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860