US Rep. Rick Nolan holds a cash advantage over his GOP challenger, Stewart Mills, in the race for Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, but Mills outraised the longtime Democrat this reporting quarter, according to campaign finance numbers released on Tuesday.
Mills took in $338,477.12, beating Nolan’s $275,343.26 haul. Mills’ bank account was also buoyed by roughly $120,000 in personal loans, which isn’t included in that total, according to a campaign spokeswoman. Mills, an executive at his family’s Fleet Farm retail chain, has outraised Nolan in the past.
“During the 2nd quarter this year, Stewart did loan the campaign money to help further his message of economic growth and prosperity, especially as Rick Nolan and special interest groups in Washington continue their campaign of misinformation against him,” campaign Spokeswoman Chloe Rockow said in an e-mailed statement.
Still, Nolan rides with nearly $150,000 more in the bank than Mills, who is sitting on $429,104.87 in cash. Mills has raised $989,307.95 total in his campaign for 2014, compared to Nolan’s $1,089,281.57. Nolan spent $168,437.20 this quarter compared to Mills’ $403,129.10.
The close race in northeast Minnesota flipped Republican in 2010 and then back again with Nolan’s victory in 2012 against former GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack.
“This is a pretty attractive pick up opportunity for Republicans. I think they’re pretty interested in this seat,” Kyle Kondik, who watches Minnesota campaigns for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said in an interview. “This is one of the frontline House races in the whole country.”
Nolan’s campaign has set up the veteran Democrat as the little guy defending middle-class Minnesotans on the Iron Range, casting Mills as a millionaire intent on preventing himself and his rich friends from paying higher taxes for the good of everyday people. Kendal Killian, campaign manager for Nolan’s re-election effort, said in a Tuesday interview that the congressman is focused on raising the minimum wage and protecting Social Security and Medicare.
Mills’ stake in the family business is valued between $41 million and $150 million, according to campaign finance documents.
Killian said the fundraising totals were in line with the campaign’s goals. “Things are going great. We hit our fundraising target, and we’re going to have the resources we need to get out our middle-class message,” Killian said. “Mills is going to dip more and more into his fortune and use his millions to try to buy the election — and buy the election for the goal of protecting him and his fellow millionaires.”
Republicans, expectedly, responded in kind.
“Rick Nolan is in big trouble this November,” Tyler Q. Houlton, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement. “Nolan will need all the money in the world to defend his reckless record of opposing funding for our troops and veterans and supporting higher taxes and a carbon tax.”
Kondik said campaigns can overstate how much voters care about self-funded campaigns, adding that it’s not odd that Mills hasn’t dumped more of his own funding into the campaign.
Mills’ fundraising win flips back a trend that Nolan put the brakes on in the first quarter of the year, when he raised more than Mills for the first time in two quarters. Nolan, who first served in Congress from 1975-81, raised $249,000 in the first part of the year compared to Mills’ $202,440. Mills, a political newcomer, has also spent more than $170,000 in cable TV advertisements that are running through July, according to the Star Tribune. A Mills campaign ad released last week targeted Nolan for not respecting gun owners’ rights, which the Nolan camp said wasn’t true.
Outside groups have also begun weighing in on the race, spending nearly $800,000 so far. The NRCC named Mills one of their “Young Guns,” part of a program of well-regarded candidates who could unseat Democrats. The Cook Political Report lists Nolan’s district as “leans Democratic,” though prognosticators have previously called the race a toss up.