MN-08: Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Green Bay Packers?

Close elections often result in a lot of spaghetti being tossed around, but what U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and DFL Party Chair Ken Martin seem to think sticks to the wall in the race for 8th district congress has to rank as one of the weirdest: that being a fan of a particular sports team somehow correlates to how well one relates to residents of northern Minnesota.

If that is indeed an important factor when selecting a congressman, then Nolan is in serious trouble.

Republican challenger Stewart Mills is a fan of Minnesota Vikings rival the Green Bay Packers, but Nolan is guilty of an infraction at least as bad if not worse: He is a staunch fan of the Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota,Twin Cities, archrival of the University of Minnesota, Duluth Bulldogs.

Republican challenger Stewart Mills was “caught” wearing a Packers jersey at a football game in 2009.

Mills packers

Nolan is seen proudly wearing a Golden Gophers hat in a 2013 holiday greeting that was mailed to constituents across Bulldog Country, tweeted and posted on Facebook.

nolan christmas card error
Oops.

Nolan may be the only 8th district DFL congressman in history who just doesn’t get it, but he’s certainly not the only DFLer to make the blunder.

One of the more memorable gaffes was made by Gov. Wendell Anderson in the 1970s during Legislative Weekend, a massive lobbying effort in which Duluth played host to legislators and their families.

The highlight of the weekend was the UM-UMD hockey game. Hockey is serious business in northern Minnesota and the rivalry between the Bulldogs and Gophers becomes particulary intense during the winter months.

Anderson decided it would be great fun to toss out the puck to start the game. Staff from northern Minnesota warned that the crowd would not respond well, noting that he not only graduated from UM but played hockey for the Gophers . But the governor didn’t understand why this would be the case, since it is after all a Minnesota team (not like the Packers, right?) and ignored their strenuous objections.

The chorus of boos was deafening, even when heard over the television, and continued for several minutes.

Those who are not from the northeastern part of the district might not truly appreciate the intensity of this rivalry, which is in part an extension of the long-standing battle between Duluth/the Iron Range and the Twin Cites metropolitan area.

Every legislative session is characterized by area lawmakers beating back legislation harmful to our communities and economy, and fighting to wrestle what often amounts to little more than nickels and dimes from those who don’t seem to believe that intelligent life exists beyond the Interstate 494-694 corridor.

For the first time in recent memory, that dismissive attitude has slithered its way up I-35 into the race for 8th district congress.

The picture of Mills wearing a Packers jersey was leaked to City Pages over a year ago and since then, the DFL party, Nolan for Congress and Nolan congressional staffers have repeatedly pushed it as a reason for voters to reject Mills.

And if that’s not insulting enough, a recent DFL mailing attacking Mills was built around the Packers, making it abundantly clear that the Metrocrats in control of the state party (and apparently the 8th district congressman) view residents as little more than bumpkins.

Following their lead, this race boils down to a choice between a DFL congressman representing Bulldogs Country who sees no problem in sporting a Golden Gophers hat in holiday greetings to constituents (and can’t spell), a Republican challenger caught wearing a Packers jersey at a football game and Green Party challenger Skip Sandman who, as of yet, has not been outed for being a fan of either.

It’s a probably a very good thing for the congressman that voters in northeastern Minnesota aren’t that shallow.