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Rick Nolan

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Rick Nolan
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota
In office
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byChip Cravaack
Succeeded byPete Stauber
Constituency8th district
In office
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1981
Preceded byJohn M. Zwach
Succeeded byVin Weber
Constituency6th district
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
from the 53A district
In office
January 7, 1969 – January 1, 1973
Preceded byJohn Lemme
Succeeded byRaymond Kempe
Personal details
Richard Michael Nolan

(1943-12-17) December 17, 1943 (age 80)
Brainerd, Minnesota, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Marjorie Nolan (Divorced)
Mary Nolan
EducationUniversity of Minnesota (BA)
WebsiteHouse website

Richard Michael Nolan (born December 17, 1943) is an American politician and businessman who served as the U.S. representative from Minnesota's 8th congressional district from 2013 to 2019. He previously served as the U.S. representative from Minnesota's 6th congressional district between 1975 and 1981 and was also a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1969 until 1973.

After re-entering politics in 2011, he was nominated to challenge first-term incumbent Republican Chip Cravaack in the 8th district,[1] defeating him on November 6, 2012.[2] Nolan was re-elected in 2014 and 2016.

Nolan's 32-year gap between terms in Congress is the second-longest such break in service (after Philip Francis Thomas's 34-year gap from 1841–1875)[3] in American political history.[4] On February 9, 2018, Nolan announced he would retire from Congress at the end of his current term.[5] Nolan ran for Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota as the running mate of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson in the 2018 gubernatorial election.[6] They were defeated in the August primary by Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan.[7]

Early life and education


Nolan was born in Brainerd, Minnesota, and graduated from Brainerd High School in 1962. His aunt was an attorney and judge, whom Nolan called his "biggest political influence growing up."[8] He attended St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, the following year, and completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota, earning his B.A. in 1966. He was enrolled in the Army ROTC program for 2 years, from fall of 62, to spring of 64. Though he never completed ROTC and never served in the Army, he falsely claimed on two occasions to have previously served in the US Army Reserve. Nolan pursued postgraduate work in public administration and policy formation at the University of Maryland, College Park, and in education at St. Cloud State University.[9]

Early political career


Early in his career he served as a staff assistant to Walter Mondale in the United States Senate,[10] and was a teacher of social studies in Royalton, Minnesota.[9] In 1968, he campaigned for presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy.[8]

Nolan during his first stint in Congress in the 1970s

Nolan was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1968 and served two terms (1969-1973), representing House District 53A (Morrison County). His uncle Martin J. McGowan Jr. also served in the Minnesota Legislature.[11] He then ran unsuccessfully for Minnesota's 6th congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives in 1972, but was elected in his second run in 1974 to the 94th Congress and reelected to the 95th and the 96th.

In 1979, he broke with his party in endorsing Senator Ted Kennedy for president over the sitting Democratic President Jimmy Carter.[10][12]

In 2007, he endorsed Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd in his campaign for President of the United States, and traveled the state of Iowa campaigning on his behalf.[13]

Business career


Nolan decided not to run for reelection in 1980, and served as president of the U.S. Export Corporation until 1986, and was later appointed to and became president of the Minnesota World Trade Center, a private-public initiative, by then-Democratic Party chairman Governor Rudy Perpich from 1987 to 1994.[9][11] The National Journal reported that "his Republican foes criticized his $70,000 salary, which they considered high for a civil servant at the time, and the budget deficits the company ran up."[8] He has also served as chairman of the Mission Township[14] Planning Committee, president and board member of the Central Lakes College foundation, to which he helped direct federal funding.[15] Nolan is the former owner of Emily Wood Products, a small sawmill and pallet factory in the northern Minnesota community of Emily.[8] His daughter and son-in-law now own and operate the enterprise.[16]

Return to politics

Nolan's first official photo since returning to Congress

U.S. Congress campaigns


Nolan announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives on July 12, 2011, challenging incumbent Chip Cravaack in Minnesota's 8th congressional district.[17] He won the Democratic primary in August 2012, defeating Tarryl Clark and Jeff Anderson.[18][19] The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent about $2 million on his campaign, and the liberal House Majority PAC spent another $1.5 million.[20] Nolan defeated Cravaack, 191,976 (54%) to 160,520 (45%), to return to Congress after a 32-year absence.


Nolan ran for re-election in 2014. The Democratic primary took place on August 12, 2014 and the general election on November 4, 2014. He was challenged by Republican nominee Stewart Mills III.[21][22] According to Politico, Nolan was a vulnerable Democrat in a competitive congressional district. He was targeted by Americans for Prosperity over his support of the Affordable Care Act. He was successful in his close re-election bid, defeating Mills 129,090 (48%) to 125,358 (47%).[23]


Nolan faced Mills in a rematch and narrowly defeated him again, by a vote of 179,097 (50.2%) to 177,088 (49.6%). Nolan greatly outran the top of the Democratic ticket, as Hillary Clinton became the first Democratic presidential nominee to lose the 8th district since before the Great Depression. Republican Donald Trump won the 8th district by a margin of 16%, but despite this, Nolan managed to survive and win re-election.



Gun policy


Nolan has said that he supports the Second Amendment but believes there should be some restrictions on gun ownership.[24] In January 2013, Rick Nolan called the assault weapon ban, which expired in 2004, common sense legislation, saying he didn't need an assault weapon to kill a duck.[25]

Energy and environment


Nolan has voiced opposition to the proposed route of the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline, saying it poses environmental risks to vulnerable wetlands and drinking water in northern Minnesota.[26]

Nolan voted against an amendment requiring a study of the vulnerabilities of the Keystone XL pipeline to a terrorist attack and certification that necessary protections have been put in place.[27]

Nolan supported increased federal investment in the mining industry, including a "$250 million-a-year research center that would look at newer, cheaper and more environmentally friendly ways of extracting resources from the region." He also advocates speeding up the environmental review process for mining companies.[28]

Economic issues


During a debate in 2012, Nolan said that taxes should be raised and that provisions in the tax code that encourage offshoring should be eliminated. Nolan also said that the "super-rich" in particular should be targeted for tax increases.[29]

Nolan has voiced support for the stimulus spending championed by President Obama. He said, "It did in fact create good jobs in a whole wide range of areas, not the least of which is in the field of transportation."[30]

On October 1, 2013, Nolan introduced a bill that would withhold the pay of members of Congress during a government shutdown, in response to the shutdown that had gone into effect that morning. "It's time for Congress to start living in the real world - where you either do your job, or you don't get paid," he said concerning the bill.[31]

Health care


In June 2014, Nolan and Republican David McKinley introduced the Health Care Fairness and Flexibility Act, which would delay an Affordable Care Act fee on every person covered by large self-insured employers and insurance companies. According to the Duluth News Tribune, "The effort marks a rare bit of bipartisan cooperation in Washington when it comes to legislation, especially regarding the president's signature law."[32]

Nolan supported the Affordable Care Act and said he would not vote to repeal it. Nolan said, "It ensures that another 30 million people in this country would have health insurance; it provides that nobody can be denied as a result of preconditions; it provides that parents can keep their children insured up to the age of 26."[33]

Nolan is a strong supporter of single-payer health care and believes it should be the ultimate goal of the Affordable Care Act.[34]

Foreign policy


Nolan was one of four members of Congress to vote against the 2014 Veterans Affairs appropriations bill. The bill allocates $73.3 billion to veterans programs and military construction projects, "$1.4 billion more than what Congress budgeted last year." In a statement, Nolan said, "I voted against the bill in protest, because it under-funds veterans health and benefit programs, while shoveling billions of new dollars into unnecessary new military construction in places all around the world where American presence and American resources do not belong."[35]

In 2014, Nolan urged President Obama to resist further military intervention in both Syria and Iraq.[36][37][38]

Nolan visited Cuba along with President Barack Obama in March 2016. It was a return trip for Nolan, who had first been to Cuba in 1977.[39]



Nolan voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.[40]

Campaign finance


Nolan supports campaign finance reform. In February 2013, Nolan introduced a constitutional amendment designed to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case that dealt with the regulation of campaign spending by organizations.[41] In 2015, Nolan joined Democratic U.S. Representatives Keith Ellison, Mark Pocan, Matt Cartwright, Jared Huffman and Raúl Grijalva as co-sponsors of legislation calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision.[42]

Congressional tenure


Nolan sat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and four of its Subcommittees: Highways and Transit; Aviation; Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management; and Water Resources and the Environment.[43] He also serves on the House Agriculture Committee and two of its Subcommittees: Conservation, Energy and Forestry, and Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit.[43]

Nolan has previously served on the House Small Business Committee and the House Agriculture Committee; his previous appointments would have earned him some Committee Seniority on these committees that he had already served on[44] in the 94th, 95th and 96th Congresses.[45] Instead, Nolan will now have Committee Seniority on only the House Agriculture Committee and be a junior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Nolan had been quoted as saying he would like to serve on "the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, along with the Natural Resources Committee, which hears legislation that directly affects the mining, forestry, agriculture and tourism-based economy of the Eighth Congressional District."[46][47]

Nolan and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar were the original co-sponsors of legislation called the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013, a bill that would modernize small aircraft regulations and the FAA's Part 23 certification process.[48][49]

Nolan endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic U.S. presidential primary election.[50]

He was a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Climate Solutions Caucus,[51][52] the Congressional Arts Caucus,[53] and the United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus.[54]

Nolan's former legislative director, Jim Swiderski, was alleged to have sexually harassed female congressional aides. Nolan's chief of staff, Jodie Torkelson, investigated the situation, found cause, and Swiderski accepted the option of resignation in 2015. In 2016, Swiderski, who now lives in China, was rehired in a remote role as a campaign aide. Nolan once again acceded to the counsel of senior staff and terminated that relationship as well.[55] Rep. Nolan was asked to resign his seat from several male elected officials in his district most notably State Senator Erik Simonson and Duluth City Council President Noah Hobbs [56]

Legislation sponsored


The following is an incomplete list of legislation that Nolan sponsored:

2018 campaign for lieutenant governor


In 2018, Lori Swanson declared her candidacy for governor, and selected Nolan as her running mate.[57] In the August primary, Swanson and Nolan were defeated by the ticket of Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan.[58]

Personal life


Nolan was divorced from his first wife and is married to Mary Nolan. He has four children.[59][60] His daughter, Katherine Nolan Bensen, died on September 15, 2020, at the age of 46, after a five-year battle with small-cell carcinoma.[61]

Electoral history

Minnesota's 8th Congressional district election, 2016[62]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic (DFL) Rick Nolan (Incumbent) 179,093 50.17
Republican Stewart Mills III 177,089 49.61
Write-in 792 0.22
Majority 2,004 0.56
Total votes 356,974 100.0
Democratic (DFL) hold
Minnesota's 8th Congressional district election, 2014[63]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic (DFL) Rick Nolan (Incumbent) 129,090 48.51
Republican Stewart Mills III 125,358 47.11
Green Skip Sandman 11,450 4.30
Write-in 185 0.07
Majority 3,732 1.40
Total votes 266,083 100.0
Democratic (DFL) hold
Minnesota's 8th Congressional district election, 2012[64]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic (DFL) Rick Nolan 191,976 54.28
Republican Chip Cravaack (incumbent) 160,520 45.39
Write-in 1,167 0.33
Majority 31,456 8.89
Total votes 353,663 100.0
Democratic (DFL) gain from Republican
Minnesota's 6th Congressional district election, 1978[65]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic (DFL) Rick Nolan (Incumbent) 115,880 55.28
Independent-Republican Russ Bjorhus 93,742 44.72
Write-in NDA NDA
Majority 22,138 10.56
Total votes 209,622 100.0
Democratic (DFL) hold
Minnesota's 6th Congressional district election, 1976[66]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic (DFL) Rick Nolan (Incumbent) 147,507 59.79
Independent-Republican James (Jim) Anderson 99,201 40.21
Write-in NDA NDA
Majority 48,306 19.58
Total votes 246,708 100.0
Democratic (DFL) hold
Minnesota's 6th Congressional district election, 1974[67]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic (DFL) Rick Nolan 96,465 55.36
Republican Jon Grunseth 77,797 44.64
Write-in 1 0.00
Majority 18,668 10.71
Total votes 174,263 100.0
Democratic (DFL) gain from Republican
Minnesota's 6th Congressional district election, 1972[68]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Zwach (incumbent) 114,537 51.02
Democratic (DFL) Rick Nolan 109,955 48.98
Write-in NDA NDA
Majority 4,582 2.04
Total votes 224,492 100.0
Republican hold

See also



  1. ^ O'Rourke, Mike (July 12, 2011). "Nolan makes bid for Congress official". Brainerd Dispatch. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  2. ^ "Nolan defeats Cravaack in 8th District". MPR News. November 6, 2012. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  3. ^ ((cite congressional site |url=https://history.house.gov/Institution/Firsts-Milestones/Record-Holders/ |website=U.S. Congress |location=Washington, DC))
  4. ^ Viser, Matt (May 28, 2013). "Lawmaker Finds New Realities in Return to Congress: Minnesota's Rick Nolan, Back After 32 Years, Decries Disunity, Focus on Money". Boston Globe. Boston, MA.
  5. ^ "Nolan won't seek re-election". Archived from the original on August 4, 2019. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  6. ^ 5 Eyewitness News. "Attorney General Lori Swanson to Mount Late Bid for Governor, US Rep. Nolan her Running Mate".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Bobic, Igor (August 14, 2018). "Rep. Tim Walz Wins Democratic Nomination For Governor Of Minnesota". Huffington Post. New York, NY.
  8. ^ a b c d Bennett, Cory (November 1, 2012). "Minnesota, 8th House District". National Journal. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c "NOLAN, Richard Michael - Biographical Information". Bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Nolan, Richard Michael". Minnesota Legislators Past & Present. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Nolan, Richard Michael". Minnesota Legislators Past & Present. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  12. ^ "Five Democrats May Endorse Ted Kennedy". The Virgin Islands Daily News. May 23, 1979.
  13. ^ Kady II, Martin (January 4, 2008). "Dodd, Biden drop out after Iowa defeat". Politico. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  14. ^ "Mission Township, MN". Missiontownship.org. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  15. ^ Buchan, Cliff (October 2, 2013). "Three decades later, Congressman Nolan finds changes in D.C." Forest Lake Times. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  16. ^ "Full Biography". Congressman Rick Nolan. December 11, 2012. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  17. ^ Collins, Jon (July 13, 2011). "Former Rep. Nolan enter 8th District race against Cravaack". Minnesota Independent. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  18. ^ Richert, Catharine (May 11, 2012). "Nolan invites Cravaack to fishing opener". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  19. ^ Collins, Jon (August 15, 2012). "Nolan wins in 8th; Quist wins in 1st". Minnesota Public Radio.
  20. ^ Viser, Matt (May 28, 2013). "Lawmaker finds new realities in return to Congress". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  21. ^ Mitchell, Corey (March 26, 2014). "Mills moves up in Republican "Young Guns" program". Star Tribune. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  22. ^ O'Rourke, Mike (April 13, 2014). "Stewart Mills wins GOP endorsement for 8th District race against Rick Nolan". Twin Cities. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  23. ^ Nather, David (December 26, 2013). "Ads hit vulnerable Dems on Obamacare". Politico. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  24. ^ Murphy, Esme. "Interview: Rep. Rick Nolan Discusses Money In Politics, ISIS & Guns". WCCO News. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  25. ^ "Nolan responds to Cravaak's statements". Brainerd Dispatch. August 17, 2012.
  26. ^ O'Rourke, Mike (July 25, 2014). "Nolan wants Enbridge Sandpiper route moved south". Bemidji Pioneer. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  27. ^ Henry, Devin (May 17, 2013). "A preview of things to come: Republicans smack Rick Nolan on Keystone". Minn Post. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  28. ^ Henry, Devin (September 26, 2012). "Cravaack, Nolan battle over natural resources". MinnPost. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  29. ^ "Nolan, Cravaack spar over economy in final debate". Duluth News Tribune. November 1, 2012.
  30. ^ Zdechlik, Mark (October 16, 2012). "Cravaack, Nolan tussle over health care, jobs in 3rd debate". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  31. ^ Zara, Christopher (October 1, 2013). "Government Shutdown 2013: Bill To Stop Congress From Getting Paid Introduced By Rep. Rick Nolan". International Business Times.
  32. ^ "Nolan bill seeks to delay fee of health care act". Duluth News Tribune. June 6, 2014. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
  33. ^ "Cravaack, Nolan wrangle over health care in debate". Brainerd Dispatch. October 16, 2012. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  34. ^ "Nolan: Mandate vote about fixing Obamacare, not political cover". minnpost.com. October 3, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  35. ^ Henry, Devin (June 5, 2013). "Nolan's 'protest' vote one of four against VA budget bill". MinnPost. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  36. ^ Minock, Nick (August 29, 2014). "Rick Nolan urges President Obama to resist military involvement in Syria". Northland News Center. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
  37. ^ Eichelberger, Erika (September 10, 2014). "Liberal Dems Are Split Over Obama and ISIS". Mother Jones. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
  38. ^ Weigel, Dave (September 11, 2014). "The ISIS-Bedwetter Watch Continues". Slate. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
  39. ^ Brodey, Sam (March 24, 2016). "Visits to Cuba will be new for many Americans, but Rep. Rick Nolan's been there". MinnPost. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  40. ^ "How Richard Nolan voted on key votes". Washington Post. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  41. ^ "Rick Nolan, Minnesota Democrat, Unveils Constitutional Amendment To Overturn Citizens United". Huff Post Politics. Associated Press. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  42. ^ "Nolan introduces constitutional amendment declaring corporations are not people, money is not free speech". The International Falls Journal. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  43. ^ a b "Committees and Caucuses | Congressman Rick Nolan". Nolan.house.gov. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  44. ^ Office of the Historian, House of Representatives. "Committees in the U.S. Congress 1947-1992", Volume 2: Committee Histories and Member Assignments, by Garrison Nelson, University of Vermont with Mary T. Mitchell, University of Michigan, Clark H. Bensen, PoliData. Published by the Congressional Quarterly, page 665.
  45. ^ Office of the Historian, House of Representatives. "Encyclopedia of the United States Congress", c. 1995, volume 4, pages 1795 & 1799
  46. ^ Mitchell, Corey (November 17, 2012). "Rep.-elect Nolan takes a trip back to the future". Star Tribune. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  47. ^ Zdechlik, Mark (November 12, 2012). "Nolan embraces role as 'veteran freshman' in Congress". MPR News. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  48. ^ "Plan to reduce aviation red tape goes to Obama". Duluth News Tribune. November 15, 2013. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  49. ^ "GAMA Celebrates Signing of Small Airplane Revitalization Act Into Law". General Aviation Manufacturers Association. 2013. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  50. ^ "Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan backs Bernie Sanders for president". Pioneer Press. Forum News Service. April 10, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  51. ^ "Climate Solutions Caucus".
  52. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Archived from the original on October 22, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  53. ^ "Membership". Congressional Arts Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  54. ^ "Our Members". U.S. House of Representatives International Conservation Caucus. Archived from the original on August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  55. ^ Rep. Rick Nolan’s legislative director left the office amid multiple sexual harassment accusations in 2015. Sam Brodey, Minn Post, July 19, 2018. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  56. ^ Duluth Group Calls On Nolan To Resign
  57. ^ Uren, Adam (June 4, 2018). "DFLer Lori Swanson announces run for governor – with Rick Nolan joining her". Bring Me The News. Edina, MN.
  58. ^ "Walz defeats Murphy, Swanson to win DFL governor primary". St. Cloud Times. St. Cloud, MN. Associated Press. August 14, 2018.
  59. ^ Rothenberg, Stuart (June 7, 2011). "30 Years Later, Nolan Considers Comeback Bid". Roll Call. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  60. ^ "Rick Nolan (D)". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  61. ^ Slater, Brady (September 15, 2020). "Former Rep. Nolan's daughter succumbs to cancer at age 46". Duluth News Tribune. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  62. ^ "State General Election 2016 - Results for U.S. Representative District 8". Minnesota Secretary of State. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  63. ^ "State General Election 2014 - Results for U.S. Representative District 8". Minnesota Secretary of State. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  64. ^ "State General Election 2012 - Results for U.S. Representative District 8". Minnesota Secretary of State. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  65. ^ "State General Election 1978 - Results for U.S. Representative District 6" (PDF). Minnesota Secretary of State. p. 7. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  66. ^ "State General Election 1976 - Results for U.S. Representative District 6" (PDF). Minnesota Secretary of State. p. 8. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  67. ^ "State General Election 1974 - Results for U.S. Representative District 6" (PDF). Minnesota Secretary of State. p. 15. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  68. ^ "State General Election 1972 - Results for U.S. Representative District 6" (PDF). Minnesota Secretary of State. p. 11. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 8th congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative