Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan’s decision not to seek re-election has shaken up the race in one of the GOP’s top pickup opportunities, with the Democratic-Farmer-Labor field just beginning to take shape.
Former state Rep. Joe Radinovich, Nolan’s 2016 campaign manager, is getting into the race Thursday.
Radinovich’s candidacy is hardly a surprise — he’s long been mentioned as a possible Nolan successor. He most recently served as chief of staff to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.
“When Congressman Rick Nolan announced his retirement, I got calls from Minnesotans everywhere — from Brainerd to Duluth, Virginia to Cambridge — urging me to run for Congress,” Radinovich said in a statement.
But Radinovich won’t have the DFL field to himself. Former FBI counterterrorism analyst Leah Phifer was already running against Nolan for the DFL endorsement. She ended 2017 with just under $11,000.
After Nolan announced his retirement, Phifer urged candidates and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to respect the DFL endorsement process.
“If we are to keep this seat blue — as it has been for 70 of the past 72 years — we must let the people of the 8th district decide who they want to be their candidate,” Phifer said in a statement.
North Branch Mayor Kirsten Hagen Kennedy, who attended this year’s State of the Union address as Nolan’s guest, announced her candidacy on Sunday. State Rep. Jason Metsa and Nolan district director Jeff Anderson could also run. Former Duluth news anchor Michelle Lee has said she’s considering getting into the race.
Republican Pete Stauber on Wednesday didn’t have any prediction of who he’d face in the general election. But Stauber praised Nolan, saying the two had a “really nice phone call” when Stauber called Nolan last Friday after he announced his retirement.
National Republicans are excited by Stauber, a St. Louis County commissioner. A former professional hockey player with the Detroit Red Wings organization, he recently retired as a lieutenant commander in the Duluth Police Department. Stauber ended 2017 with $137,000.
President Donald Trump carried the 8th District by 16 points, while Nolan won re-election by just half a point. Stauber maintained that Trump has strong support in the district and that he supports the president. But Stauber said he disagrees with Trump on cutting funding for Great Lakes restoration and cleanup.
GOP businessman Stewart Mills, who lost to Nolan in 2014 and 2016, had all but ruled out a bid for elected office in 2018 while taking a swipe at the NRCC. But since Nolan’s retirement announcement, Mills has said he’s taking a look at running for the 8th District again.
Skip Sandman, who won 4 percent of the vote in 2014, is running as an independent.
Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales moved the 8th District race from Lean Democratic to Tossup after Nolan's retirement announcement.