For months, Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan has been dancing with a run for governor. Friday afternoon, he announced he wouldn’t seek the state’s top job after all, suggesting he’ll run for re-election in the competitive 8th District in 2018.
“The challenges and consequences of the issues facing our Nation in Washington are too important for me to walk away from at this time,” Nolan wrote on Facebook Friday afternoon.
“Moreover, while I’ve received lots of encouragement to run for governor, both from within the 8th District and throughout the state, some of the strongest sentiments have come from constituents who want me to continue the successful work I’ve been able to do in Congress,” Nolan said.
A political committee called Draft Nolan for Governor, run by Minnesota operative Brian Rice and 8th District DFL chairman Justin Perpich, had been urging the congressman to run and had conducted polling about a possible Nolan bid, which the congressman called “encouraging” in April.
But the Democratic-Farmer-Labor field is already crowded, including Nolan’s fellow Rep. Tim Walz, who already locked up the endorsement of 7th District. Rep. Collin C. Peterson. And on the other end of the DLF spectrum, Rep. Keith Ellison had already predicted that Walz would be the next governor.
The fight for Minnesota’s 8th District has been one of the most expensive House races in the country over the past two cycles. Nolan overperformed Hillary Clinton by 12 points last fall. He narrowly defeated two-time challenger Stewart Mills in a district President Donald Trump carried by 16 points.
A spokesperson confirmed to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press Friday that Nolan is expected to run for re-election. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has had a staffer in the district for months.
Once again, Nolan will be a top GOP target. Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC backed by GOP leadership, spent more money trying to knock off Nolan last year than they did in any other House race. Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman is the fund’s executive director, so the super PAC has always had a special interest in flipping the 8th District.
That spending against Nolan may have only emboldened him.
“I ran into Norm Coleman at the airport recently, and I was teasing him. I said, ‘Norm, when are you going to stop wasting all that good Republican money trying to defeat your old pal Rick Nolan?’” Nolan told Roll Call in April.
He’s also suggested that Trump’s presidency will be a boon for the DFL, despite the fact that the 8th district — which is home to the Iron Range — voted overwhelmingly for Trump.
“All the things that Trump is proposing and doing, I think it’s going to be one of the strongest years ever for Democrats running for federal office,” Nolan said in April.