Hubbard County hosts 8th District GOP meeting
By Anna Erickson
An enthusiastic group of 8th Congressional District Republicans on Saturday unanimously endorsed Stewart Mills III as their candidate for Congress. The Hubbard County Republicans hosted the event, which included about 240 delegates and alternatives, along with candidates and their representatives, said Hubbard County Republican chair Paul Utke.
“We had the state GOP chair and all six of the governor candidates or their representatives speak in the morning,” he said. “And four out of six of the U.S. Senate candidates along with statewide candidates.”
Delegates also passed resolutions that will be submitted for the state convention.
Hubbard County hosted the 8th Congressional District convention two years ago as well.
The biggest news coming out of the 8th District convention was the Mills endorsement.
Describing himself as an unintentional candidate, Mills told the delegates and alternates gathered at Park Rapids Century School that he was 100 percent in the race to win the seat from Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan.
“We’re running against someone very liberal and very out of step with our values and priorities,” Mills said. “This is a very winnable election.”
Mills criticized Nolan for votes he made against funding for Veterans Affairs and against the Keystone XL pipeline project. He also accused Nolan of “waffling” on Polymet’s plans for a copper-nickel mining operation in northeastern Minnesota.
The vice president of Brainerd-based Mills Fleet Farm told the convention he was honored and humbled to receive the nomination.
“I never thought I’d be doing this in a million years,” Mills said, flanked by his wife, Heather, and two of his five children, Stewart and Jade.
Mills, 42, said that as administrator for his family corporation’s health care plan, he had received a “cold shoulder” when he tried to tell a then-U.S. Senator Jim Oberstar staff member the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t work. The Nisswa man called for the repeal and replacement of the law, often called Obamacare.
In comments after his speech, Mills said he would replace the law with a free market-based system with price transparency, purchases across state lines, tort reform and health savings accounts.
He also pledged to support what he called the 8th District’s Main Street economy of small- and medium-sized businesses.
“We need to stop putting targets on those folks’ backs,” Mills said.
Mills criticized President Barack Obama for presiding over “the worst economic recovery in U.S. history” and said he would champion the Polymet mining plans as well as others.
Mills said the roots of his campaign go back to his dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act and his contention that once Nolan was elected, he lined up behind gun control advocate Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Upset by some of Nolan’s comments regarding guns, Mills recorded a YouTube segment countering the congressman’s views.
In an interview after his speech, Mills said he ran an issue-based, honest campaign for the Republican endorsement, which came without any opposition.
He said he would debate Nolan if the right time, right place and right moderator could be agreed upon.
“I’m sure it’s going to happen,” he said.
Mills’ endorsement was part of a day that saw a parade of statewide GOP candidates who were eager to address the crowd of 8th District party activists.
The candidates and the offices they’re seeking included: Marty Seifert, governor; John Howe, secretary of state; Mike McFadden, U.S. Senate; Randy Gilbert, auditor; former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, governor; Rob Farnsworth, governor; Monti Moreno, U.S. Senate; Chris Dahlberg, U.S. Senate; Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, lieutenant governor; and Dan “Doc” Severson, secretary of state.
Mike O’Rourke, who writes for Forum News Service, contributed to this report.