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'I'm prepared for a tough race': Nolan to run for re-election in '18

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Crosby, will run for his seventh term in Congress next year, he said Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan will run for his seventh term in Congress next year, he said Thursday.

The DFLer from Crosby needs to appeal to the voters of an 8th Congressional District that overwhelmingly chose President Donald Trump in last year's election.

A recent series of congressional town hall meetings hosted by Nolan encouraged him to think he can do it, he said. Nolan also found support during campaign season. He named the dedicated infrastructure of campaign volunteers and contributions as a reason that pushed him to run again.

"I've been told time and time again, they're really counting on me," Nolan said. "It's hard to walk away from something like that."

Nolan also noticed a change in the political winds of late, including popular opposition to Republican-proposed budgets that slash things like health care, Great Lakes restoration and the Environmental Protection Agency, he said.

"The things they are proposing to do are just so egregious and so detrimental to our ... nation's future," Nolan said.

The 73-year-old said his health is still good, another factor in the decision.

He'll need all of the juice he can get to run in a district where 53.76 percent of voters chose Trump compared to 38.27 percent for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In Nolan's congressional district race, he beat GOP opponent Stewart Mills III by just .56 of a percentage point, and there was talk of a recount in the month following the election.

His race had an unusually wide disparity between a winning Democrat and Trump's results, Nolan said. Internal Democratic polls show Nolan winning the race again, he said.

In response to a question on whether he planned to shift his positions to the right in response to the 8th's vote for Trump, Nolan said, "No, not at all." He didn't need to shift his positions, because he had already taken populist stances similar to those of Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, he added - such as supporting trade tariffs against foreign steel imports and advocating for single-payer health insurance.

However, he acknowledged that his support of the Twin Metals and Polymet mining projects in northern Minnesota may pose a liability to his base of voters. Green Party opponent Ray "Skip" Sandman took about 5 percent of votes in the hotly contested 2014 race, mostly Democrats that otherwise may have voted for him, Nolan said. Sandman, who did not run in 2016, plans to run again in the 2018 election.

Despite the political liability, it was important for him to support the two mining projects because it was simply the right thing to do, Nolan said. The mining companies should get the chance to have their projects fully vetted rather than being denied offhand, he said.

"This is not about support for a particular project," he said. "It's just the right of companies to submit a project, and then let them go through the entire national environmental approval process..."

On the question of whether Mills, Nolan's opponent in the 2014 and 2016 elections, would run again, Nolan sounded nonchalant.

"When you've lost the election contest a couple of times when people in your party were winning more than usual all over the country, when you have the wind at your back and you don't win, that's a pretty compelling argument to perhaps not run at a time when it appears as though Democrats will - for a change - have the wind at our back, " Nolan said.

The internal poll showed Nolan winning, but not "running away with it," he said.

"I'm prepared for a tough race," Nolan said.