While Rick Nolan legislates in Washington, D.C., as the current representative from Minnesota's 8th Congressional District, the race for the seat in the 2018 midterm election is swirling around him.
Last week, Nolan, D-Crosby, voted to reject the Republican tax plan, calling it a "tax scam" aimed at helping the super-rich and big corporations.
The National Republican Congressional Committee fired back Friday, Nov. 17, spending what it said was tens of thousands of dollars on a 15-second commercial claiming "Rick Nolan voted to block middle class tax relief." The tax measure ultimately passed the House on a 227-205 vote, with 13 Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.
The ad is "targeted to all demographics of people" on Facebook, said Maddie Anderson, an NRCC spokeswoman.
"Minnesotans on the Iron Range and throughout the 8th District deserve to know that their representative cares more about voting straight party line ... than he does about lowering their taxes," she said.
Also last week, Duluth's Pete Stauber, the so-far-unchallenged Republican candidate for the 8th District seat, said he was pleased by the successful House vote - which sent hope for a major Republican victory into deliberations in the Senate, whose GOP tax proposal has some key differences.
"With 50 percent of families living paycheck-to-paycheck, this is a step in the right direction and a win for Minnesota families," Stauber said in a news release.
Nolan chastised the House vote in favor of rehauling the federal tax code, saying it would raise taxes on 36 million Americans and increase the national budget deficit by $1.7 trillion over 10 years.
"This tax scam will massively increase the deficit, forcing our children to pay the bill, and opening the door to cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," Nolan said in a news release explaining his vote. "I support real tax reform that benefits working families and small businesses, grows the economy, and creates good paying jobs."
Nolan is facing a Democratic primary challenger in Leah Phifer of Isanti, Minnesota. The Two Harbors native said she "strongly opposed" the Republican tax plan that passed the House.
"By 2026, 45 percent of all middle class families would pay more in federal taxes under this plan than they would pay under the current tax code," Phifer said. "To fund these tax cuts for corporations and the 1 percent, the Republican tax plan eliminates popular tax deductions and credits that middle-class Minnesota families rely on."
Phifer then struck on a note often used by Nolan, one derisive of Wall Street privilege.
"In Congress, I'll be fighting for tax cuts for working families and small businesses," she said, "not Wall Street and millionaires."
Independent candidate Skip Sandman of Duluth likened the GOP tax plan to a pizza in eight parts with only one slice going to blue-collar workers in the middle class while corporations and businesses benefit.
"It's not a good plan at all," Sandman said, "and I hope to God they do not pass it in the Senate."
The NRCC is doing its best to accelerate awareness of the 2018 midterm race for an 8th District seat it believes is vulnerable. Nolan is a three-time incumbent, having won narrowly in each of the past two elections - both victories over Stewart Mills and among the most expensively fought races in the country.
On Friday, the Cook Political Report changed its 8th District campaign rating from "leaning Democrat" to "toss-up," citing Stauber's history as a union member and blue-collar appeal.
Anderson said the NRCC will continue to pound on Nolan's middle-class credentials - even if the election is almost a year away.
"This will be an issue we will be targeting Nolan on over the next year in various ways," Anderson said.
Meanwhile, Nolan kept to legislating - announcing on Thursday his co-sponsorship of a bill that would prop up sagging pension plans with the sale of Treasury-issued bonds to large investors.
"It's time for Congress to ensure that retirees who worked hard for a lifetime receive every penny they were promised," Nolan said, citing thousands of companies failing to make payment on earned pensions. "This is corporate irresponsibility, plain and simple, and it's absurd to suggest that hardworking Americans suffer for it."