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Mills drops request for election recount in 8th District race

Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (left) and Republican challenger Stewart Mills III.1 / 2
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DULUTH, Minn. — Republican congressional candidate Stewart Mills on Friday changed his mind and withdrew a request for a recount in his close race against incumbent Rep. Rick Nolan.

Nolan, DFL-Crosby, defeated Mills in the Nov. 8 election by 2,009 votes among the nearly 357,000 cast across Minnesota's 8th District — a 0.56 percent margin of victory.

Mills earlier in the week said he would pay for a recount, saying it was unusual that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had won several precincts that Mills had lost.

But by Friday Mills said he had changed his mind "after much consideration, thought, and prayer along with consulting with my family and supporters."

In a statement Friday, Mills said "the cost estimates of this recount in terms of volunteer time and expense was excessive, (and) instead of spending financial resources to recount votes, I've decided to donate a portion of that to the Salvation Army."

Mills said refunds will be made to anyone who donated to the recount effort or, if people choose to, their contributions "will be added to my donation to the Salvation Army."

"I send my congratulations to Congressman Nolan. We did not always agree on everything, but I respect the congressman, and wish him the best as he moves forward representing the 8th Congressional District."

Nolan responded by saying he applauds Mills' decision to withdraw the recount request.

"A carefully selected state audit of the results in each of the 18 counties found each of us gaining 1 vote, for a net change of zero. Given the precision and accuracy of Minnesota's election system, it was extremely unlikely the outcome would change," Nolan said in a statement. "This discretionary recount would have been a tremendous expenditure of time, money and effort for all parties involved. Beyond state and county costs totalling in excess of $100,000, the legal and staff costs for each campaign would have likely brought the total recount to over half a million dollars. That money would be better spent in a thousand other places, and the decision to withdraw the request protects both campaigns and Minnesota taxpayers from further expense."

Nolan praised the work of "all of Minnesota's election officials at the state, county and local level for their hard work and diligence throughout the entire election process."

The 0.56-percent margin in the 8th District is greater than the 0.5-percent threshold that would have triggered an automatic recount under state statute. Because the margin is over the threshold, the recount would have cost the Mills campaign $102,053, Ryan Furlong, spokesman for Secretary of State Steve Simon, said earlier this week.