By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Rick Nolan was among the newcomers voted in to Congress in the wake of Watergate.

The Crosby Democrat was first elected to Congress in 1974 to represent voters of the Sixth District. But all these years later upon his return from Washington D.C. after a late night on the U.S. House floor, Nolan said it’s time to spend more of it with family.

“Now is the time to give something back to the family and pass the baton to a new generation in politics and spend more time with family,” Nolan said.

Nolan took back the Eighth District congressional seat from Republican Chip Cravaack in 2012. His return to Congress after a long hiatus saw him run for re-election again in 2014 and 2016. Both times, Nolan squeaked out narrow victories over Republican challenger Stewart Mills. And both times, the campaigns were expensive.

Hamline Political Science professor David Schultz said Nolan’s unexpected retirement will both open the door and wallets for a wide open seat.

“This is a race that will attract outside national attention and it will probably be a $25 or $30 million Congressional race,” Schultz said.

Former FBI and Homeland Security analyst, Leah Phifer, announced her campaign for the democratic house seat back when it looked like Nolan was going to take a run for Governor. He decided against a statewide run, and was intending to run again for re-election.

Phifer says Friday’s announcement caught her by surprise too, adding that she has the utmost respect for Nolan.

“We have a lot of women running, younger people running and this is an opportunity to have another Watergate baby moment. Where we can elect 50 or more democrats to Congress to be able to get change happening,” Phifer said.

Nolan says both his age and the needs of family weighed heavily on his decision. Nolan’s 43-year-old daughter, Katherine Bensen, is battling lung cancer.

Comfortable with his decision to leave Congress, Nolan says the Eighth District is rich with the next generation of leaders.

“This is not a decision that popped up or evolved overnight, it’s been coming for a long time,” said Nolan.

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