ISANTI, Minn. — United States Rep. Rick Nolan has his second challenger for his toss-up seat for the House of Representatives – the latest one from his own party.
On Sunday, Leah Phifer announced her bid for Nolan’s seat after traveling more than 7,000 miles around the large district over the summer on a listening tour before making her decision to run.
“What I found throughout the summer was both encouraging and concerning,” Phifer told Alpha News of her listening tour. “Minnesotans are resourceful and resilient; people across the district are stepping up to fill in where policy inaction has failed us. It’s truly inspiring. However, in terms of our politics, we’re still pretty divided – even those of us in the same party.”
The 33 year-old Phifer, spent her adult life working in national security. In 2008, Phifer started her career at Homeland Security before switching over to counter-terrorism work at the Minneapolis FBI Field Office. Phifer left her post as a FBI Special Agent in May of this year to begin her listening tour.
A supporter of Bernie Sanders’ health care for all plan, Phifer is also a supporter of clean energy. While Phifer disagrees with Nolan’s stances to support land swaps for Polymet mining in Hoyt Lake, Minnesota, she is a supporter of the Enbridge plan to replace line 3 in northern Minnesota.
Phifer also calls for more help for veterans suffering from substance abuse and an increase in Pell Grant awards up to $13,000 per student a year.
Looking to build a positive campaign, Phifer tells Alpha News people are tired of the divisiveness encouraged in the 2016 elections.
“There are battles brewing over potential mining proposals, pipeline removal and the ever-present Hillary/Bernie divide. People are tired of the divisiveness,” Phifer said. “They’re ready to coalesce around someone who doesn’t carry the baggage associated with these issues. They’re ready for a positive campaign – built on solutions they helped create – to unite us going forward.”
Noting her relationship with Nolan is “amiable,” Phifer isn’t concerned about a seemingly uphill battle she faces challenging a sitting congressman for the same party endorsement.
“The Congressman and I bring different strategies and perspectives to the table, but we’re committed to many of the same values,” Phifer said. “We’re on very amiable terms and both want what’s best for the district. If my strategy can bring otherwise frustrated voters back into the fray and unite us going into the next cycle, then I accomplished what I set out to do.”
However, Phifer may have an advantage. Nolan’s seat has been viewed as a toss-up in past election cycles, winning his seat against Republican endorsed challenger Stewart Mills with less than a one point margin in 2016.
In addition to becoming the second candidate to challenge Nolan for his seat, Phifer is also the second candidate with a background in law enforcement.
As reported by Alpha News, St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Staubert, a former pro-Hockey player and Area Commander for the Duluth Police Department announced in July his intent to run against Nolan, seeking the Republican endorsement.