The Eighth Congressional District is huge. It runs from north to south from the Canadian border to the suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and east to west from Wisconsin to Wadena. Several of its eight-plus state Senate districts and 16-plus state legislative districts are larger than some states in the United States.
So we have a very unique situation shaping up for the coming year.
We have our DFL Congressman Rick Nolan, who was born, grew up, educated and for most of his life worked as an independent businessman in Crow Wing County, where he and his family reside. He has a long and dedicated history of active and effective involvement in his community. He has been instrumental in township planning, Brainerd and Emily city governance, and impressive growth of Central Lakes College.
The likely challenger to Congressman Nolan is Stewart Mills III. He also is a product of this area. He is involved in his family’s businesses across the state and Wisconsin. He also has been involved in a number of area organizations and projects. He also lives in Crow Wing County.
So we have the most “local” race imaginable for Congress shaping up right here in Crow Wing County. That has never happened before, and is not likely to ever happen again.
Let’s collectively make a genuine comparison of candidates for Congress. Let’s demand a factual comparison that is really a comparison of facts. Make it the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Let’s request. encourage and demand that factual claims and assertions of both candidates and their supporters be premised on verifiable facts.
Let us discourage, to the point of penalty and censure, any of the false accusations, grossly inflated claims and spurious charges or volleys at opponents that have become far too prevalent in recent political campaigns.
Let us work together to give each candidate full and fair hearing. Let us be cautious of vague and generalized claims and charges. Let us decry infusion of large dollar negative attacks expended by outside interests who have little knowledge of what truly goes on in our vast and diversified district.
Whatever our viewpoint, we can be proud that the local area has provided the best major political representation of our Eighth District.
Let us also insist, or at least strongly encourage, that civility reign throughout, in informative and spirited comparison and exchange. There is good precedence for that in the Eighth District, particularly among the candidates themselves.
Former Congressman Jim Oberstar was an excellent example of civility throughout his long political career. His best known opponent, recently deceased, Rod Grams, maintained civility throughout his challenge. While some supporters proved raucous and rude, Chip Cravaack, both as challenger and incumbent, maintained a quiet civil demeanor throughout his two campaigns.
Our current Congressman, Rick Nolan, even as an aggressive young upstart back in the 1970s, exhibited civility toward entrenched incumbent John Zwach. Nolan continues as a glowing example of civility. In 2012, he was friendly, courteous and cooperative with all seven other DFL candidates he competed with, even those who reneged after he won the party endorsement.
With little exception, civility prevailed throughout the general election between Nolan and Cravaack.
So that pattern is set. May it continue in 2014, and may we strive to see that it does.