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 twentieth profile in the series is Minnesota’s 4th Congressional District race.
Minnesota’s 4th Congressional District comprises Ramsey County, the eastern (St. Paul) region of Hennepin County, a western tip of Washington County, and the northern rim of Dakota County.
Betty McCollum entered Congress by winning the open seat left by 12-term DFL congressman Bruce Vento in 2000. McCollum did not win a majority of the vote in that race, but still beat her Republican opponent Linda Runbeck by 17.1 points – Tom Foley won a then record 20.6 percent of the vote for the Independence Party. In 2002, McCollum handily won a second term with a 28.3-point victory margin; third party candidates only totaled 3.9% of the vote in that race. In 2004, McCollum defeated GOP Dakota County Commissioner Patrice Bataglia by 24.3 points, with Independence Party candidate Peter Vento receiving 9.2 percent. In 2006, McCollum coasted to a 39.3-point victory over Republican Obi Sium.
The DFL has carried the 4th District in every race from 1948 through 2006: Eugene McCarthy won the first 5 elections (1948-1956), Joseph Karth won 9 (1958-1974), Bruce Vento won 12 (1976-1998), and McCollum has won the last 4 (2000-2006). Prior to this DFL streak, Republicans won every 4th District race from 1920 through 1946, with the exception of 1944 and 1932 (in which, due to a redistricting controversy, all nine Minnesota Representatives to the U.S. House were elected as at-large representatives).
McCollum, a former teacher and member of the North St. Paul City Council, was the second woman from Minnesota elected to serve in Washington since 1858 when the Gopher State achieved statehood. McCollum serves on the House Committee on Appropriations and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Republican Edward Matthews is running on a platform to make the 2003 Bush tax cuts permanent, to balance the federal budget and eliminate earmarks, to implement free market reforms to fix the U.S. health care system, to simplify the federal tax code, and to expand domestic drilling to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
McCollum is running in one of the most solidly Democratic congressional districts in the Upper Midwest and will extend the DFL run in the district to 31 straight elections.