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Mills releases new ad, vows no personal attacks against Nolan

A still from "Shipman", the first 2016 ad from the Stewart Mills campaign.

Seeking to shake off Democrats' characterizations of him as born with a silver spoon, Stewart Mills III on Wednesday released the first campaign ad for his 2016 run for Congress, aimed at establishing a blue collar image.

The minute-long ad, titled "Shipman," focuses on Mills' involvement with Shipman Auto Parts in Brainerd nearly 30 years ago when Mills worked in parts procurement at Mills Ford. It shows Shipman employees talking about their recollections of Mills. The end of the spot has Mills walking around the salvage yard, and working on a car with tools in his hand.

Asked whether whether the ad was in response to the Democrats' rich-kid attack ads against him, Mills said he didn't go into the ad with a set narrative in mind, and that it was unscripted.

"There was no real objective or script going in," he said. "The story was told, and it was told the way it actually happened."

Mills wouldn't say how much the Shipman ad cost to produce, but over May the campaign plans to release a 30-second version of the Shipman ad as well as an additional biography-style ad, he said.

"Our next ad will be complementary to this one," he said. "It will pick up right where this ad leaves off."

The Shipman ad doesn't mention Mills' opponent, incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, by name. Instead, it criticizes "politicians in Washington" in general, as a "good ol' boys team."

Mills said he wouldn't make personal attacks against Nolan during the campaign, although

Nolan "and his confederates" were already running a smear campaign against him.

"It's not going to be personal attacks," he said. "The only thing that he has is personal attacks against me."

Mills said the fact he carried Crow Wing County 57 percent to Nolan's 39.42 percent in the election for Minnesota's 8th Congressional District in 2014 showed that personal attacks against Mills backfired in the place that knew him best.

"What Rick Nolan is engaging in will blow up in his face," he said. "It will backfire, the same way it did last election cycle. ... Take a look at Crow Wing County. We're both from here. We both live here. We know so many people that are the same."

A history under the hood

Shipman co-owner Glen Knowlen said Thursday he appeared in the ad because he didn't like the way Democrats portrayed Mills during his previous run.

"There was quite a few lies and accusations from the last campaign that weren't true, so I just wanted to help set the record straight," he said. "They kind of portrayed him as a spoiled rich kid that didn't have to work or do anything, and that's not the case."

As a summer job in high school and college, Mills worked for his family's company by buying parts for Mills Ford's parts department and their mechanics to use, including used parts from Shipman. Sometimes the Shipman crew wouldn't be able to get the parts from the scrapyard in time for Mills' visits, so he would go with someone get the parts from the junked cars directly, Knowlen said.

In those days, Knowlen worked the front counter, so he would see Mills every time he came to Shipman to pick up parts; 3-5 times a week.

"He was a fun kid," Knowlen said. "He had a good attitude, always friendly. He loved going out into the yard if he had the chance, let's put it that way."

Mills recalled his times going to Shipman pretty much the same way: when Mills mechanics needed a rare or cheaper part or needed one quickly, he would head over. Although "2-3 times a week," he would go out into the yard to take off parts, most of the time the parts were already waiting for him when he got there.

"Most of the runs to Shipman were for stuff they already had pulled off," he said.

In addition to getting parts, Mills worked for the family companies in a variety of other ways in his youth. He even helped the Mills mechanics perform repairs, he said, and later became certified to do suspensions and alignment work as an adult.

Visit to view the Shipman ad on YouTube.

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Follow him on Twitter at