Minnesotans should soon know whether the race for governor will get another high-profile entry: On Thursday, 8th District DFL Rep. Rick Nolan told MinnPost that he is “leaning toward running for governor.”
“I’ve been trying to find a good reason for not doing it,” Nolan said, “and I’m having difficulty finding that good reason.”
The congressman, who was about to depart D.C. for the House of Representatives’ two-week Easter recess, said that he will likely make a decision by the end of the month.
Nolan has been publicly flirting with a campaign for the open-seat 2018 gubernatorial race since the beginning of this year, and had maintained that he was considering it, even as other top Democrats like 1st District Rep. Tim Walz entered the race.
Today’s comments are the strongest indication yet that Nolan may run. On Wednesday, an organized effort to draft Nolan for governor — launched by Nolan loyalists and backed publicly by some Democrats — made a big step, hiring Emily Jensen, the caucus director of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Minnesota campaign, as an organizer.
“I started out giving consideration of this thing as a courtesy to the number of people who are encouraging me to run,” he said. “They’ve done a lot of work on this thing. They’ve done a lot of polling and calling, and the more they do, the better the prospects look.”
“I’ve gone from considering it as a courtesy to I’m giving it very, very strong consideration at this point.” Nolan added he has seen some of the initial polling, “and it’s pretty encouraging.”
Nolan admitted he is facing some pressure from D.C. Democrats to run for reelection, so that the party does not have to deal with another open seat contest in a district Donald Trump won, as it will in Walz’ 1st District. Each of Nolan’s three campaigns for the 8th District seat have been nationally-watched battleground races.
But Nolan said, “it’s a good time to hand the seat over… I said to myself, if and when I leave the Congress, I would want to do it at a time when we had good candidates to run in my place, and when things look favorable for Democrats.”
He said the 2018 could well be that time. “The way the Trump administration is going, I think it’s going to be an exceptionally good year… If I save the 8th District for one more term, then we didn’t have a Democratic governor and we lost it in reapportionment for the next ten years, that’s a factor in my consideration, a big factor.”
Though Nolan said his chances of running are higher than 50-50, he said that he is planning to use the next two weeks on the phone and taking meetings in order to arrive at a final decision.
“I haven’t had the time to speak directly with party leaders,” Nolan said. “I’ve spoken with most everyone in the family. I just want to have some time. It’s a big decision.”
Nolan, who is 74 and represented northern Minnesota in Congress the 1970s and returned to the House in 2013, said that “at any age, you’re too old for a fool’s errand.”
In a hallway off the House floor, Nolan pointed to a bust of Beshekee, a Minnesota Ojibwe chief from the 19th century who traveled to Washington in old age to seek federal help for a famine.
“You’re never too old,” he said, “to run for governor.”