Interview With Eighth District Hopeful Rick Nolan


Politics is a messy game. Sometimes it can produce elation, listening to the bubbly slogans of the campaign trail and eating them up. But more often than not politics is expansively depressing. That may be why almost half the country doesn’t vote in elections. The exacerbating rhetoric, political hypocrisy, empty promises and voter’s general apathy toward the issues all play a role. It takes a special kind of person to be interested in politics and an even more special person to be actively involved in politics. But there’s always room for optimism I suppose. Former congressman Rick Nolan is back in the ring with that optimism. He’s vying against Jeff Anderson and Tarryl Clark for a chance at dethroning freshmen Republican Chip Cravaack in the 8th district seat. Nolan and I chatted about the Northland’s pressing issues via email:

MJ: What are you going to bring to the 8th district that Tarryl Clark & Jeff Anderson may leave behind?
RN: America is at a tipping point, and we need to get things back on track, and do it now. I am proud of the mixture of experience I bring to this election. We need a representative who understands the legislative process, someone that understands the needs of this district, and someone that has a proven track record of getting things done. I have won tough congressional races before, both as a challenger and an incumbent, and I did so without ever straying from my progressive values.

MJ: Chip Cravaack has gotten a lot of flack in his first and maybe only term. But the 8th district chose him. Has there been a schism or a shift in the 8th district’s sentiment that will give you an edge over Cravaack this November?
RN: As I travel the 8th district, I hear more and more about the voters’ buyers remorse regarding the 2010 election. It wasn’t so much about people voting for Chip Cravaack, it was more that Democrats stayed home in areas where they normally show up and vote in large numbers, like St. Louis County. Since the moment Chip Cravaack showed up in Washington, he proved that he didn’t know much about this district and our priorities. His first votes were to cut off funding for homeless veterans. He then went on to vote for the Ryan budget not once, but twice. This would end Medicare as we know it by turning it over to private, for-profit insurance companies. Last but not least, he voted to cut off funding for Pell Grants, which provides money for less fortunate people to go to college. He is just out of touch with the needs of the people in this district.

MJ: What do you think is most important to the 8th district at this juncture? If elected how would you address this?
RN: Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. This is the most important thing I hear on the campaign trail. It will be my top concern when I take office, using my experience as a small business owner, as an international and domestic exporter and as the former CEO/President/Founder of the Minnesota World Trade Center Corporation. I understand how to create jobs, and will utilize my experience in both the public and private sector to do just that. We also need to make sure we protect Medicare and Social Security. These are not entitlements; they are benefits we earn from the first hour we ever go to work. Cravaack wants to hand over these programs to the private sector, and that would be about the worst mistake you could make.

MJ: What is your take on Polymet & non-ferrous mining? How imperative are mining jobs to the economic growth of Northern MN? What would you like to see happen?
RN: I am supportive of non-ferrous mining projects and believe we can find the technology to do this mining the right way. However, I want to make it clear that unlike some, I will not be a rubber stamp for these multi-national mining companies. We must make sure we are on the side of the worker’s future. We must protect their health and their pensions. We must make sure that environmental standards are upheld. I think we’re at a point where Polymet is ready to move forward, and I’m supportive with the belief that we can and must move forward with projects like this to create good-paying jobs and grow our natural resources economy. However, we must always look out for the safety of the workers and the environment and make sure large corporations that come into our communities are doing the same.

MJ: Do you think congress is more or less polarized than it was in the 1970’s?
RN: Congress has always been a partisan legislative body, and today it seems as if less works gets done than ever before. And that is literally true. The Congress is really only in session two days a week, and members have very little interaction with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle. They show up, are told how to vote on each bill, and then go home to campaign. No wonder nothing gets done. We need to restore real work weeks in D.C. and starting working with people, regardless of party affiliation, to get this country back on track. We have enough people in Washington that simply quote rhetorical talking points and follow leadership blindly. I am going to Washington to be a true progressive voice. I’ll roll up my sleeves, get to work and will do what is best for the people of northern Minnesota.