Smart Politics is running a series of election profiles of all the Upper Midwestern U.S. Senate and U.S. House races leading up to the November 4th elections. The series will culminate with Smart Politics’ official projections. The seventeenth profile in the series is Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District race.
Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District comprises counties in the southern rim of the state: Blue Earth, Brown, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Houston, Jackson, Martin, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmstead, Pipestone, Rock, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Watonwan, and Winona.
Tim Walz’s 5.6-point victory over six-term Republican incumbent Gil Gutknecht was one of the biggest U.S. House upsets across the country in 2006 (note: though predicted by Smart Politics). Gutknecht had won his three previous election campaigns by an average of 21.9 points. With the exception of moderate Democrat Tim Penny’s 6-term service from 1984-1992, the GOP had won every 1st District contest from 1892 through 2004.
Walz, an Army National Guard and Iraq War veteran and former teacher, serves on the Committee on Agriculture, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Brian Davis, a Mayo Clinic physician, defeated his Republican opponent in September’s primary, State Senator Dick Day, by a 67 to 33 percent margin. He is running on a platform of lowering taxes, eliminating earmarks, building a fence along the southern border, protecting the traditional definition of marriage and life, and remaining on the offensive against radical Islamists.
Independence Party candidate and farmer Gregory Mikkelson ran in 2004 for the 1st District seat, receiving 4.8 percent of the vote. In 2002 he ran on the Green Party ticket winning 3.7 percent of the vote.
George W. Bush carried the 1st District in both 2004 (51.1 percent to 47.4 percent over John Kerry) and 2000 (47.7 percent to 46.0 percent over Al Gore). Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty also carried the district decisively in his successful re-election bid in 2006 (49.3 percent to 43.8 percent). The fact that Walz outperformed the top of his ticket by 11.1 points in 2006 indicates he resonates with members of his district as more than a ‘typical Democrat.’ Were it not for Republican Jim Ramstad’s (MN-03) retirement and the need for Republicans to defend that seat in a tight race, the GOP would likely be more focused on recapturing this slightly Republican-leaning district from the Freshman Congressman.