The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

June 26, 2013

Grandson of Fleet Farm founder eyes Congress bid

ST. PAUL — A Brainerd-area businessman with a familiar family said he planned to file paperwork Wednesday to run for Congress as a Republican in the recently competitive 8th District in northern Minnesota.

Stewart Mills III, grandson of the founder of Mills Fleet Farm chain of stores, said he would start raising money toward a challenge to four-term Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan. He was appearing at two events in the district to lay out his campaign, including one at the site of a new store in the retail chain that specializes in outdoors goods, auto parts and guns.

"I look forward to further exploring how I can best represent the people of Minnesota and ensure that America is home to big ideas, cutting-edge solutions and the freedom to fulfill the American dream for generations to come," Mills said in a prepared statement.

Mills has been eyeing a campaign for months. He has been particularly vocal about gun rights issues as Congress was weighing new firearms restrictions, filming a 12-minute video addressed to members of Congress that compared the precision of semi-automatic weapons and duck hunting rifles. He concludes "gun control isn't about controlling guns. It's about controlling people and limiting your freedom."

The 41-year-old Nisswa resident is currently a Fleet Farm vice president.

The 8th District has grown more competitive as it has grown in geographic size through redistricting. It encompasses woodsy areas, tourist havens and industrial hotspots in north-central and northeastern Minnesota. It was a lock for Democrats for decades until Republican Chip Cravaack knocked off a veteran incumbent.

Nolan beat Cravaack by almost 9 percentage points in a costly contest last fall. His return to Congress ended a 32-year personal hiatus; he was previously a congressman from 1975 to 1981 but left voluntarily.

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