Rick Nolan Looks to Make a Congressional Comeback

Article excerpt

D.C. Dispatches is on the campaign trail in the 8th District this week, profiling the DFL congressional candidates competing in next week's primary election. Today is former congressman Rick Nolan.

Last of three articles

DULUTH, Minn. -- Rick Nolan considers himself a veteran of this "running for Congress" thing, even if this is his first race in more than 30 years.

He's 68-years-old, pulling 15-hour days, trying to convince voters in the 8th Congressional District to give him back a job he gave up in 1981. He routinely starts his days before sunrise, cruising around the district from his home in Crosby, just outside of Brainerd.

The former three-term member of Congress is the oldest DFLer running in next week's primary election, and if he defeats Rep. Chip Cravaack in November, he'd be the oldest member of the Minnesota delegation, but he says he's not slowing down.

"There are times when I grow weary and tired," he said. "But the minute I see people whose values I share and the enthusiasm for public service and making a difference, I get energize and I just keep on going."

Nolan was elected to Congress in 1974, the same year as James Oberstar, whose old seat Nolan now seeks. He stayed in D.C. for three terms, leaving Congress two years before his home, then in the 6th District, was redrawn into Oberstar's 8th.

Though all three DFL candidates have espoused traditional Democratic positions, Nolan pitches himself as the most progressive in the race, advocating a single-payer health-care plan, public campaign financing, more rigid gun control laws and immediately removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan: While campaigning, Nolan reaches a crescendo when talking about "ending these wars of choice."

"DFLers want to see the end of these wars of choice and the nation building abroad, where it's not welcome, and the constant expansion of the military empire. They want to see those ended and they want to see that money spent rebuilding America," he said "[Voters] want to see rules and regulations and the laws that gave us good health, and good air and clean water and healthy, safe working conditions. Those are the boilerplate, main issues."

Defending his time in business

Nolan said his political experience will serve as a backdrop to his campaign message, but he spent a lot of time Thursday explaining a second section of his resume: his time in the business community.

Candidate Tarryl Clark released her final campaign ad of the primary season Wednesday night, a spot charging that Nolan took "lavish" vacations and a swollen taxpayer-funded salary while working at the Minnesota World Trade Center Corp. in the 1980s and 1990s. All the while, the ad says, the group failed to create any jobs. The ad is a preview of a line of attack Republicans plan to make if Nolan advances to the general election.

The WTC was a public-private initiative with the goal of helping a collective of Minnesota businesses forge international relationships. It launched in 1983, with Nolan as its governor- appointed unpaid chairman, a position he held for four years (at which point he was voted president and received a $70,000 salary, "making him one of the highest paid public officials in the state," the Star Tribune reported in 1989). …