Minnesota Republican Stewart Mills, a wealthy businessman who lost two consecutive races to Democratic Farmer Labor Rep. Rick Nolan, announced Wednesday night he is unlikely to run for the 8th District in 2018.
But he’s leaving the door open to future political activity, and potentially another congressional bid in 2020 — “if there is a meaningful change of leadership and priorities” at the National Republican Congressional Committee.
In a lengthy Facebook post addressed to his supporters, Mills blamed his narrow 2016 loss on the NRCC cutting ad reservations for him in the final stretch of the race.
“It was a blow that we were not able to recover from. Even if I wanted to reach deeper into my own pocket to replace that broadcast media exposure, there wasn’t enough time to do so,” Mills wrote. “The NRCC succeeded in doing something the Democrats were unable to do, leave us flat-footed and unable to mount a commensurate campaign.”
He praised Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC backed by House GOP leadership, for standing with him. CLF made the 8th District race a priority in 2016, spending more than $4 million against Nolan. The race attracted more than $15 million in outside spending, according to Open Secrets. Mills loaned his campaign about $2.3 million during the 2016 cycle.
He lost by less than a point, while President Donald Trump won the 8th District by 16 points.
“This is sour grapes from one of the most overrated candidates I’ve ever seen,” said a GOP operative involved in his 2014 campaign. “This is a guy who couldn’t beat a socialist in a district that overwhelmingly voted for Trump. Good riddance.”
In explaining why his name “probably will not appear on any ballot in 2018,” Mills said, “this is not a cycle I feel comfortable in.” He cited Nathan L. Gonzales' summary of the biographies of some of the this year’s Democratic recruits.
“The Republicans, in my direct and personal experience, are recruiting folks without a strategy, polling, or an explainable path to victory,” Mills wrote. “In my opinion, these candidates will be the sacrificial lambs the NRCC will build their incumbent protection strategy upon.”
The NRCC shot back Wednesday night.
“The NRCC believes this district is a prime pickup opportunity and is excited about the Republican field there,” Communications Director Matt Gorman said in an email. “As with the special elections earlier this year, our focus is winning elections by both protecting our incumbents and putting Democrats on defense.”
National Republicans are excited about Duluth Police Lieutenant Pete Stauber, a former professional hockey player with the Detroit Red Wings operation, challenging Nolan in 2018. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Lean Democratic.
Mills said he isn't going away.
“I intend to be VERY involved in policy and politics this cycle,” he wrote.
Mills said he is “immersed in getting my planned initiatives off the ground.”