Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan withstood a bruising challenge from Republican Stewart Mills but won re-election to a second term in the 8th Congressional District. Nolan was declared the winner by the Associated Press shortly before 1 a.m.
With about all votes counted as of 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nolan had a slight advantage according to the Secretary of State's numbers – 48.5 percent to 47.12 percent. Green Party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman had about 4.3 percent.
It's a similar lead to what Nolan held much of the night. Late into the night and into the early morning, Mills was not yet ready to concede. Mills gave what KSTP described as a "qualified concession" at 12:45 a.m., and said he will wait for the final numbers before congratulating Nolan in the morning.
According to FOX 9, Mills says he called Nolan around 10 a.m. Wednesday to officially end it.
This race was the second most expensive of any House race in the country, according to MPR News, with groups unaffiliated with either candidate spending more than $12 million in the 8th District. Of that total, $2.2 million has been spent in just the last week.
Nolan, 70, is completing his first term in this chapter of his congressional career, but he previously served in the House in Minnesota's 6th District from 1975 to 1981. He re-entered politics in 2012 and defeated first-term Republican Chip Cravaack, to reclaim the 8th District seat that had been in Democratic hands since World War II. Cravaack had ousted longtime Rep. Jim Oberstar in 2010.
Mills, 42, was running for political office for the first time. He is vice president of his family's business, Mills Fleet Farm based in Brainerd, which has 32 retail locations.
Democrats hammered Mills for his inherited wealth, and claimed in some TV ads that Mills supports tax cuts for the wealthy while not supporting an increase in the minimum wage.
Mills and Republicans portrayed Nolan as a liberal who is out of touch with the 615,000 or so residents of the district – about 87,000 of which are located in Duluth, with the rest spread across vast swaths of northern Minnesota, stretching westward nearly to Bemidji.
The 8th District used to be squarely in Democratic hands, with much of its population in the Iron Range. But the borders of the district have been stretching farther to the south, adding more conservative areas in the northern fringe of the Twin Cities metro area.
At the same time, the population on the Iron Range has declined. There's still an advantage for the Democrats, but it's not nearly as strong as it used to be, according to MinnPost.