Mills Fleet Farm is an excellent Upper Midwestern business. Fleet Farm stores are designed for rural and exurban shoppers, but they are respected by urbanites, too. I buy ammunition at a nearby Fleet Farm–or did before the ammo shortage hit, anyway–and my wife likes their kitchen supplies. Fleet Farm is as far from a liberal operation as you can get, but I didn’t know that any of its owners are interested in politics until Stewart Mills III, grandson of the company’s founder, made a video that tried to educate Minnesota’s Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and Mills’s Congressman, Rick Nolan, about the folly of gun control.
Mills had made videos before, and they had gotten a few hundred views on YouTube. But we posted this video here, and that helped it to go viral. It now has several hundred thousand views. Here it is again, in case you missed it:
Mills’s sincerity shines through in the video. When I saw it, I thought he could be a terrific political candidate. I wasn’t the only one. “Stewart Mills For Governor” bumper stickers began showing up in the Twin Cities. Ultimately, Mills was prevailed upon to throw his hat into the ring for Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District. The 8th District is essentially northern Minnesota; it includes Brainerd, where Mills Fleet Farm is headquartered and where Stewart Mills lives.
One thing you notice immediately about Mills is that he has long hair. I’m OK with that; I had long hair once, too. Here he is with his wife and some of their kids. There are actually a few more, I think:
Today Stewart Mills appeared before the Freedom Club, Minnesota’s main source of support for conservative candidates, so I had a chance to chat with him. He is a likable guy and a solid, mainstream conservative. He has spent a good chunk of his life hunting, and he explains his entry into politics as an application of his family’s “hunting camp rule.” If you complain about something, you have to help fix it. His issues are mainly fiscal, with a dose of the Constitution, especially the 2nd Amendment. As a vice-president of Mills Fleet Farm, he has been responsible, among other things, for employee benefits–the company has 6,000 employees–and he is very knowledgeable with regard to health care issues and Obamacare.
The 8th District has a rather tortured recent history. James Oberstar represented the district for many years, during which time he became progressively disconnected from his constituents. By the end, he virtually never returned to his alleged “home,” being entirely a creature of Washington. It was revealed in 2010 that he received exactly one campaign contribution–think about that: one!–from a resident of the 8th District. The rest came from Democratic Party lobbyists. In 2010, a Republican tide combined with Oberstar’s arrogance to sweep Chip Cravaack to an unexpected victory, one of the biggest upsets of that election year. Unfortunately, 2012 was very different, and Cravaack had some personal issues that helped the Democrats. The result was that Cravaack was beaten by an elderly Democratic retread named Rick Nolan, who represented a different Minnesota district from 1975 until 1981. Mills will challenge Nolan in 2014, and he would have, I think, an excellent chance to win even if Nolan were not such an unappealing candidate.
The Democrats are understandably worried about Mills. Their first line of defense is that he is wealthy. The Minneapolis Star Tribune, a Democratic Party newspaper, headlined: “Deep-pocketed Mills Fleet Farm exec formally opens bid to unseat Nolan.” Mills has disclosed a net worth somewhere between $46 million and $150 million, so he is indeed wealthy. Today he said that he expects Democrats to attack him on that ground. No doubt he is right, but the Democrats’ attitude toward wealth is entirely hypocritical: there are more rich Democrats than Republicans in Congress. Mills also said that he expects the Democrats to attack his family. That prediction, sadly, will no doubt be fulfilled.
More important for Mills’s race than his wealth is the fact that he comes across as an entirely authentic Minnesotan. His family’s business has been successful, but that’s a good thing: it will be hard to portray Fleet Farm as some kind of an elitist business. It is Mills, not Nolan, who comes across as a quintessential Minnesotan. The 8th is a traditionally Democratic district, but not a particularly liberal one. On the contrary, it is mostly conservative, culturally. Gun rights loom large, and the Democrats have largely written off the white working class. So I think Stewart Mills will win, and help us hold the House, if he gets enough support. Please go here to contribute to Stewart’s campaign.