Nolan Mulling a Run for Minnesota Governor

Says he would ‘give it some thought’ after being asked to consider run

Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., is considering a run for governor after pulling off a squeaker victory in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., says he’s been asked to run for governor in 2018, and he’s considering it. But for now, he’s leaning toward staying in Congress.

“It was not an idea of mine,” Nolan told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “It’s one of those things that genuinely came from other sources, and out of respect for them, I said I would give it some thought.” 

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Gov. Mark Dayton isn’t running for re-election.

“I’m not unhappy in the least representing the 8th District,” Nolan added. “In fact, I take great joy in that. So I probably … lean more towards continuing to represent the 8th District.”

The encouragement for a gubernatorial bid came from DFL activist Brian Rice, a longtime Nolan ally. Nolan represents Minnesota’s sprawling 8th District, which is home to the Iron Range. He said Wednesday that some of the interest in him running for governor stems from his ability to perform in rural areas. 

Nolan has twice fended off challenges from GOP businessman Stewart Mills, winning last November by less than a point in a district that president-elect Donald Trump carried by 16 points.

But Nolan’s resonance in that district could also be a reason for the DFL to want him to stay put. His seat has been a top target for outside Republican groups, and his race is consistently one of the most expensive congressional contests in the country.

Nolan ran on a strong anti-trade message and courted white working class voters, many of whom flocked to Trump. Since the election, he’s been outspoken in the Democratic caucus about the need to better appeal to the economic anxieties of white, middle class Americans.

When asked about whether his district would fall into Republican hands if he left, Nolan told the Pioneer Press it wouldn’t happen if Democrats had a good midterm year. But it would likely be much harder for the DFL to hold onto this northeastern district in 2018 than in another presidential year. 

This is Nolan's second stint in Congress. He returned to Washington in 2012 after having represented the 6th District from 1975 to 1981.

Last month, Sen. Amy Klobucharsaid she would run for re-election instead of running for governor. 

— Simone Pathé contributed to this report.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.