The 8th CD race is becoming the marquee congressional race in Minnesota (more on that tomorrow). As I noted previously, I’ll be spending more time focused on this race in the coming weeks before Election Day.
I have to be honest that I had never heard of former Congressman Rick Nolan before he announced he was running again for Congress. As I have studied up on the race and on Nolan’s political history, it’s fair to say Nolan has ruffled feathers inside the Minnesota DFL Party while he served in Congress, mostly because Nolan was a strong supporter of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy’s campaign against President Jimmy Carter in 1980. In May of 1979, Nolan announced he was leading the effort to draft Kennedy to run for president in 1980. Nolan organized a Minnesota Committee for a Democratic Alternative, which was used as an organizational committee for supporters of Kennedy.
Minnesota’s own Walter Mondale was serving as Carter’s Vice-President and having a member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation supporting Kennedy strained the relationship between Nolan and Minnesota Democrats.
This week Congressman Chip Cravaack’s campaign sent out two-hard hitting press releases on former Congressman Rick Nolan’s record in Congress. The first release hit Nolan on pay increases, the second on Nolan’s missed votes in Congress and in the Minnesota Legislature.
In the press release on the missed votes, Cravaack’s campaign highlighted a quote from then Lt. Gov. Alec G. Olson, who said about Nolan “I’ve supported you (Nolan) in the past and I’ve gotten others to support you too, but I shan’t do it ever again…” Below is an editorial cartoon which appeared in the Pioneer Press on April 1, 1979.
As depicted by the cartoon, Mondale doesn’t look very happy with Nolan and from the people I spoke with about this post, the relationship between Nolan and Mondale remained strained for many years. In the last few weeks, Democrats who supported Nolan’s opponents in the DFL Primary have endorsed Cravaack. Democrats in the 8th congressional district are clearly divided over a variety of issues including mining and abortion.
This problem isn’t unique to Democrats, as Republicans in the 1st CD are still divided about their support for Allen Quist, who’s running against Congressman Tim Walz. There are huge similarities between Quist’s problems winning over supporters in his own party and with Nolan’s. While Nolan’s problems with Democrats in the 8th CD may appear to be about current issues, it’s clear from the cartoon and quotes above that Nolan’s relationship with Minnesota Democrats has been strained for decades.