Other Opinion: DNT endorses Nolan

With each passing year, this becomes increasingly clear: U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, simply put, is good for Duluth, good for the Iron Range and good for Northeastern Minnesota.

With each passing year, this becomes increasingly clear: U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, simply put, is good for Duluth, good for the Iron Range and good for Northeastern Minnesota.

On Nov. 8, voters here are going to be needed to propel Nolan to re-election victory, assuring the congressman stays on the job for them, the same congressman who got pavement-pounding semis off of Superior Street in our downtown, a feat long eluding local leaders; who has been consistent and unwavering in his support of mining, pipelines and protecting good-paying Northland jobs; who has made national headlines by fearlessly butting heads with politics-as-usual Washington; and who has been willing to contradict his party in favor of supporting his 8th Congressional District.

Rick Nolan has been accessible and responsive and has earned the support he'll need to prevail and remain in office.

Little his challenger has done or said suggests he'd be as open or as willing to address our needs here in the north. Republican Stewart Mills' base of support clearly is in the southern end of the district. He's rarely seen in Duluth or on the Range. That's in stark contrast to Nolan and, before him, Reps. Chip Cravaack and Jim Oberstar. Mills has no campaign office here, even though Duluth is the biggest city in the district.

And voters can be forgiven for being suspicious of Mills' seeming unwillingness to answer questions publicly or to face scrutiny-or even inquiry-in front of constituents in the north or anywhere. Mills turned down numerous invitations this campaign season to debate his opponent or to appear with him on television, on radio or elsewhere. And the one time he did agree to share a stage with Nolan-at the Playhouse in Duluth on Sept. 19 at a candidate forum sponsored by the News Tribune and Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce-he arrived through a back door moments before the debate was to begin and then dashed away soon after it was over.


When the News Tribune editorial board requested a follow-up meeting, Mills said he'd only do so off the record.

By contrast, Nolan meets regularly with veterans, students, seniors and others across the district. He has congressional or campaign offices in Duluth, Brainerd, Chisholm and elsewhere.

And responsive? Last fall when retired Teamsters learned their pensions may be cut by as much as 70 percent, Nolan co-sponsored the "Keep Our Pensions Promises Act," which proposed tapping into Wall Street fees to help. "Since we bailed out Wall Street after the recession, it seems only fair we can help the middle-class workers who did nothing wrong," retired Duluth Teamster Robert D. Topliff wrote to the News Tribune in August in appreciation of Nolan's response.

Another example: This summer, at a meeting Nolan holds from time to time with North Shore business leaders, he learned of a visa problem that was preventing overseas students from coming here to work at resorts, hampering operations. "Nolan immediately got to work," Bluefin Bay General Manager Dennis Rysdahl recounted to the newspaper this month. "Nolan helped us ensure that our business could operate at full capacity when we needed it most. We are grateful."

In June, in a meeting with News Tribune editorial board members, Nolan didn't hesitate when asked his most-pressing priority: "(Getting) the Iron Range community and business interests back on track," he said.

Then he put the urgency into perspective: "It's about our whole national economy. It's about our national security. It's about our way of life. Iron ore and all the precious metals, holy cow, they're everywhere. We have to have them. They're in medicine. They're in our roads. They're in our bridges. They're in our eyeglasses. They're in the construction of our buildings. They're in our iPads. They're in our electrical grid. They're in our electrical communication systems. They're in all of our appliances," he said. "You know, they credit Minnesota iron ore for having won World War II. This is big stuff."

And it has long been one of Nolan's well-placed No. 1 concerns.

With mines closed, hundreds of miners out of work, stressed-out families facing financial ruin, and illegal steel dumping only growing more rampant, Nolan brought White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to the Iron Range just before Christmas last year to see the ugliness firsthand. While such a move could have come sooner, the visit made a huge difference. Just two months later, President Barack Obama announced executive actions - including more and more-stringent inspections at U.S. ports and increased Customs personnel to enforce tariffs - that proved profoundly effective.


Customs started catching more steel produced in violation of trade agreements, stopping it from flooding our market. Demand for U.S. steel increased as the supply of foreign steel decreased. Prices rebounded. Mines reopened. And miners went back to work by the hundreds.

"If we shut down our mining and steel industry, we'd throw the nation into a great depression," Nolan said in June. "So this is not just about the Range. It's not just about Minnesota."

For his efforts, Nolan won the endorsement this fall of United Steelworkers District 11. The announcement came last month in Eveleth, where workers had just returned to their jobs at United Taconite after a year being laid off. Also, last week, Nolan received the 2016 Congressional Steel Champion Award from the American Iron and Steel Institute. The institute announced the award jointly in Hibbing with Cliffs Natural Resources, noting Nolan's "dedication to and support of the American steel industry and its employees."

Clearly a warrior and a champion for the Iron Range and Northeastern Minnesota, Nolan, like Cravaack before him, participates in regular phone calls and meetings with the many agencies and officials involved in the proposed PolyMet precious-metals mine. Such diligence in making sure the project remains on track has paid off. Environmental reviews are now completed after more than 10 years, and the company is applying for permits to operate. Hundreds will be employed. Hundreds of millions of dollars of economic benefits will be realized in St. Louis County and across Northeastern Minnesota.

"All the indications for the future are good," Nolan said at last month's candidate forum in Duluth of mining operations currently on the Iron Range, including PolyMet.

That wouldn't appear to be a completely accurate assessment of the proposed underground Twin Metals project near Ely, however. In early March, Gov. Mark Dayton, citing "grave concerns" over pollution, canceled the company's ability to do test drilling for its project, even though no environmental reviews had even been done yet. The governor completely usurped the process.

And Nolan let him have it, even though both of them are Democrats. "I strongly disagree with the governor," Nolan's statement started.

Nolan has been such a staunch supporter of mining and pipeline projects he was targeted by liberal-left picketers in March 2015. "Apparently I'm not radical enough," he told editorial board members a month later.


Or, perhaps, he really is the reasonable, hardworking, for-the-people moderate he claimed to be during his re-election bid two years ago. Who won millions for the Northland for St. Louis River cleanup, for runway fixes, for port improvements and dredging, for Duluth's new intermodal transportation center and more. Who a year ago was ranked one of the most effective House congressional members by the Legislative Effectiveness Project. Who on TV's "60 Minutes" railed against the corrosive effects of big money on our elections and how it impedes the ability of Congress to govern. And who came up with the applaudable "No Government-No Pay Act" to "prohibit Congress from being paid during a shutdown that Congress created."

All of this is good for Duluth, good for Northeastern Minnesota, and good for the 8th Congressional District. Voters on Nov. 8 have the opportunity to re-elect a leader who's here, who's present, who's accessible, who doesn't shy away from public scrutiny, and who's more than willing to be part of the public process.

About the 8th Congressional District race

For a second straight election, Republican Stewart Mills of Nisswa is challenging U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democrat from Crosby in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District.

Hear from the candidates

Mills and Nolan participated in a candidate forum Sept. 19 in Duluth sponsored by the News Tribune and Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. Go to to see the debate video.

This endorsement was determined entirely by the Duluth News Tribune editorial board.

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