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A Republican not named Mills is running for Rick Nolan's seat in Congress

Another Nolan/Mills rematch is still possible – but there's a new wrinkle now.

The last two Congressional races in northeastern Minnesota have led to big-spending, close contests between Democrat Rick Nolan and Republican Stewart Mills.

While that could happen again next year, too, the 2018 campaign will have a different look now that Republican Pete Stauber has entered the race.

Stauber, who is in his second term on the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners, kicked off his campaign with appearances in Hermantown and Ely on Monday.

With the election still more than a year away, it's not clear yet who Stauber will be running against. His entry does set up a possible Republican primary, though, if Mills decides to make a third run at the Eighth District seat held by Nolan. Mills tells WDIO he plans to make a decision about that by September or October.

Stauber: from hockey to police work

Pete Stauber, 51, is a graduate of Lake Superior State University, where the hockey team he played on won a national championship in 1988. Stauber says in his bio that meeting President Ronald Reagan during the team's congratulatory trip to the White House was a highlight of his college years.

After a few years of minor league hockey, Stauber joined the Duluth Police Department. He's been there for 22 years, rising to Area Commander. But he said Monday he now plans to retire from law enforcement to focus on his county post and his Congressional campaign, the Duluth News Tribune reports. Stauber has also served on the Hermantown city council.

On Monday he told the crowd there that rural America maters, WDIO says. "And up here in northeastern Minnesota, that's who we are. We're hardworking, blue collar, Christian people," Stauber added.

He underscored his support for new mining in northeastern Minnesota, a cause Democratic incumbent Nolan has also been pushing for.

The Eighth District

The Eighth Congressional District covers much of the eastern part of the state and north central Minnesota, from just north of the Twin Cities up to the Canadian boundary.

Some analysts consider it a tossup district. Nolan defeated Mills by about 2,000 votes last year, out of more than 350,000 cast.

What's more, the top of the ticket went Republican, with President Trump carrying the Eighth, just like he did in all Minnesota districts outside the Twin Cities.

Not only has Mills not decided if he will run again, Nolan has not officially declared that he's running for re-election, either. But he came pretty close when he announced last month that he will not run for governor. Nolan said then that the challenges facing the country are too great for him to walk away from Washington.

An independent candidate, Ray "Skip" Sandman, is also running.

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