Less Hair Could Mean More Votes in Minnesota

Nathan L. Gonzales July 23, 2015 · 9:00 AM EDT

It’s no secret that hair was the source of Samson’s strength. But unlike the Old Testament Nazirite, one potential congressional challenger is hoping less could mean more at the ballot box.

Republican Stewart Mills might have the most talked about hair in politics, second only to Donald Trump. Last cycle, Mills challenged Democratic-Farmer-Labor Rep. Rick Nolan in Minnesota’s 8th District. But the race received national attention after I included a blind quote from a local DFL source who said the Republican had “Brad Pitt kind of appeal” to help describe his potential physical draw to some voters.

Democrats attacked Mills more for his personal wealth than his shoulder-length hair, but his long locks received plenty of attention. The Republican’s hair made it more difficult to portray the first-time candidate as a typical politician, but it may have also been a turnoff for some conservative voters in the district. In the end, Nolan prevailed 48.5 percent to 47 percent.

Mills has not decided whether to run again. “I’m definitely keeping my options open,” he told the Duluth News Tribune in late June. “I’m not ready to make a decision either way. We certainly had a great deal of support last time and came incredibly close.”

But a recent tweet threw an interesting tangle into a potential rematch. “Lost some hair, & a lot of pride, in a July 4 grilling ‘incident.’ Might be time for a new look. #StillHaveEyebrows,” Mills wrote on Twitter. The Republican told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he had some trouble lighting his father’s gas grill and the final result was a new, shorter haircut. Mills posted a photo on Twitter as well.

“The new look after my July 4th Bar-B-Q singeing. The haircut fixed a lot; luckily my eyelashes aren’t as noticeable,” he tweeted.

Losing hair and gaining votes would not be unprecedented.

I remember when Republican Geoff Davis of Kentucky came in for an interview in 2001. He had a great mustache and I learned more about Army helicopters than at any other time in my life. Davis lost the 4th District race in 2002 to Democratic Rep. Ken Lucas, 51 percent to 48 percent.

Davis subsequently shaved his mustache and was elected to Congress in 2004. Of course it may have also had something do with Lucas retiring and leaving a Republican-leaning open seat. But Davis took on actor George Clooney’s father, Nick, a Democrat, and won 54 percent to 44 percent.

Mills’ task would be slightly different since Nolan plans to seek re-election. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report rate Minnesota’s 8th District as currently Safe for Democrats. But a freshly shorn Mills with his personal wealth and a cycle of experience under his belt would have to be taken seriously inside and outside the district.