PARK RAPIDS - An enthusiastic group of 8th Congressional District Republicans Saturday unanimously endorsed Stewart Mills III, 42, as its candidate for Congress.
Describing himself as an unintentional candidate, Mills told the 219 delegates and alternates who gathered at Park Rapids Area Century School he was 100 percent in the race to win the seat from Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn.
“We’re running against someone very liberal and very out of step with our values and priorities,” Mills said. “This is a very winnable election.”
Other criticisms of Nolan that he leveled Saturday were for a vote he made against funding for Veterans Affairs, a vote he made against the Keystone project and Nolan’s “waffling” on the Polymet mining issue.
The vice president of Brainerd-based Mills Fleet Farm told the convention he was honored and humbled to receive the nomination. The convention chair, Ted Lovdahl, called for a suspension of the rules so all the delegates could simultaneously and unanimously voice the motion to endorse Mills.
“I never thought I’d be doing this in a million years,” Mills said as he was flanked by his wife, Heather, and two of his five children, Stewart and Jade. His other three, older children, he said, had work commitments that day.
Mills said as plan administrator for his family corporation’s health care plan he had received a “cold shoulder” when he tried to tell then-Rep. Jim Oberstar's staff member the Affordable Health Care Act would not work. The Nisswa man called for the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. In comments after his speech he said he would replace it with a free market-based system with price transparency, purchases across state lines, tort reform and the use of Health Savings Accounts.
He also pledged to support what he called the 8th District’s Main Street economy of small- and medium-sized businesses.
“We need to stop putting targets on those folks’ backs,” Mills said.
Mills criticized President Barack Obama for presiding over “the worst economic recovery in U.S. history” and said he would champion the Polymet mining plans as well as others.
The endorsed candidate said the roots of his campaign go back to his dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act and his contention that once Nolan was elected he lined up behind gun control advocate Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Upset by some of Nolan’s comments regarding guns, Mills recorded a YouTube segment countering the congressman’s views.
Following his family’s hunting camp code, which stated that if you complained about a situation you’d better be prepared to fix the problem, Mills said he resolved to finish what he started by launching his campaign.
“That’s why I’m running,” he said. “It’s time to get off the bench and do something about it.”
He also said he wanted to reduce the nation’s $17.3 trillion debt before it’s passed down to the younger generation. If interest rates on the U.S. debt return to normal levels, he said, the U.S. would look more like Greece or Cyprus.
Abiding by the U.S. Constitution was identified by Mills as a priority.
“It is what makes us uniquely American,” he said. “We need to follow it.”
Plagued by microphone problems throughout his acceptance speech, Mills, at times, abandoned the microphone and raised his voice to be heard.
“Nothing’s going to stop us now,” he said. “Nothing’s going to slow us down.”
In an interview after his speech, Mills said he ran an issue-based, honest and genuine campaign for the Republican endorsement, which came without any opposition.
He said he would debate Nolan if the right time, the right place and the right moderator could be agreed upon.
“I’m sure it’s going to happen,” he said.
Mills’ endorsement was a part of a day that saw a parade of statewide GOP candidates who were eager to address a crowd of 8th Congressional District Party activists. The candidates and the offices they’re seeking included: Marty Seifert, governor; John Howe, secretary of state; Mike McFadden, U.S. Senate; Randy Gilbert, auditors; former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, governor; Rob Farnsworth, governor; Monti Moreno, U.S. Senate; Chris Dahlberg, U.S. Senate; Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, lieutenant governor; Dan “Doc” Severson, secretary of state.