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Former vice president Mondale boosts Nolan at fish fry fundraiser

BAXTER--Former Vice President Walter Mondale stumped at a fish fry campaign fundraiser Thursday for U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan as the Democrat congressman fights a high-pressure race to retain his seat in the 8th Congressional District.

Former vice president Walter Mondale speaks to DFLers Thursday night at a rally for U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan at the Northland Arboretum in Baxter. The statesman encouraged attendees to pick up the phone, place a sign or knock on a door for DFL candidates. (Steve Kohls/ Brainerd Dispatch) Video and Gallery
Former vice president Walter Mondale speaks to DFLers Thursday night at a rally for U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan at the Northland Arboretum in Baxter. The statesman encouraged attendees to pick up the phone, place a sign or knock on a door for DFL candidates. (Steve Kohls/ Brainerd Dispatch) Video and Gallery

BAXTER-Former Vice President Walter Mondale stumped at a fish fry campaign fundraiser Thursday for U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan as the Democrat congressman fights a high-pressure race to retain his seat in the 8th Congressional District.

Real Clear Politics recently moved the seat to a "toss-up" prediction, and outside groups have allocated upwards of $10 million so far to push the citizens of the 8th either to vote for Nolan or his Republican challenger, Stewart Mills III. When the two first faced off in 2014, Nolan won by about 1.4 percent of votes cast.

The fish fry featured a number of prominent Minnesota Democrats, including Mondale, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and, in a video message, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois also came to speak for Nolan. Two local tribal leaders also spoke during the rally: newly elected Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Faron Jackson Sr. and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe chair Melanie Benjamin. The Mille Lacs Band supplied the walleye.

Still more high-level Democrats were heading to the 8th District to help out Nolan on Friday: Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to appear with him in Duluth, together with Gov. Mark Dayon.

'A little extra zip'

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On Thursday, the lower level of the Northland Arboretum was packed solid with more than 250 people, to the point where some attendees ate their fried walleye in the late October air outside.

In his remarks, Mondale said those gathered in front of him would be enough to carry the area for the Democrats as long they convinced their friends to vote Democrat, too. They had a "compelling case" on their side, Mondale said.

"All we need to do is give a little extra zip," he said.

He had harsh words for the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Rather than commit to public service, Trump "has never done anything" as far as Mondale could tell. It was the responsibility of Americans to take Trump's lack of service into account when they were at the ballot box, he said.

"When I listen to him talk-I don't want to get away from proper language-but it's all bull," he said.

Mondale captured the Democratic nomination for president in 1984 but came up short against Ronald Reagan in the general election. When asked before the rally about Trump's ambivalence about accepting the results of the 2016 election, Mondale said respecting the will of the people after losing an election was part of the American tradition.

"We have a proud tradition in this country-and I've been a part of it-where after the election, we accept what the people have decided," he said. "I ran for president, I got beat ... but I said the next day, 'The public has decided, and I respect them, and I honor our new president.' That's the American way."

He refuted Trump's notion that the election was somehow rigged, pointing out elections are run by individual states-many of which are now governed by Republicans.

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Interviewed before the rally, Nolan projected confidence about the 8th District election less than two weeks away. Asked about a poll by KSTP/SurveyUSA released Sunday that showed him four points behind Mills, he pointed out the same poll in 2014 showed him down eight points before he eventually won. Another recently released poll showed him up eight points in the 2016 race, he said.

"I don't believe either one of them," he said. "It's somewhere in between, and it's going to be close."

Peterson, a fellow Democrat who's enjoyed a longtime hold on Minnesota's 7th Congressional District, also spoke at the fundraiser, although he ostensibly has his own re-election campaign to run. However, Peterson said his opponent had only raised $12,000, a far cry from the millions thrown at him in the 2014 campaign.

"I'm campaigning hard, I might make it," he said wryly.

He said Nolan understood farming issues and was an important member of the House's committee on agriculture, important in light of the need for a new Farm Bill soon.

"If you survive this one, you're home free," he told Nolan. "You can go duck hunting with me."

Asked before the rally if he thought Nolan was vulnerable to losing the seat, Peterson said anybody facing the degree of Republican money that Nolan was would be vulnerable.

"I think without all this money (against him), he'd win easily," he said.

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A popular populist?

Amid an election year where populist candidates are all the rage, several fundraiser attendees said they were attracted to Nolan's populism. Pete Ziegler of Brainerd said he was a supporter of Nolan's back in the 1970s when Ziegler lived in Montevideo and Nolan was running for Congress in the 6th District. He praised what he said were Nolan's populist stances on families, gun control and health care, as well as Nolan's willingness to work with Republicans.

"I think Rick is a kickback to the type of politician that we used have in that he works across the aisle," Ziegler said.

Maggie Nelson was there with her husband Jerry. She said she liked Nolan because he cared about the people and the environment, not just the wealthy.

"Nolan is a really honest person," she said.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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