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 twenty-third profile in the series is Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District race.
Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District comprises counties along the western rim of the state: Becker, Big Stone, Chippewa, Clay, Clearwater, Douglas, Grant, Kandiyohi, Kittson, Lac Qui Parle, Lake of the Woods, Lincoln, Lyon, Mahnomen, Marshall, McLeod, Meeker, Norman, Otter Tail, Pennington, Polk, Pope, Red Lake, Redwood, Renville, Roseau, Sibley, Stevens, Swift, Todd, Traverse, Wilkin, Yellow Medicine, and parts of Beltrami and Stearns counties.
Collin Peterson is one of three Upper Midwestern Blue Dog Democrats comprising the nearly four-dozen member body in the US House. Peterson entered Congress by defeating seven-term GOP incumbent Arlan Stangeland by 7.1 points back in 1990. Peterson then narrowly won re-election in 1992 (by 1.3 points) and 1994 (2.6 points) before thoroughly dominating his GOP counterparts from 1996-2002 by an average margin of victory of 37 points. In 2004 Peterson beat his Republican opponent David Sturrock by 32.3 points and in 2006 he rolled to a 40.7-point victory over Michael J. Barrett.
Peterson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has been known to frequently cross party lines and vote with the GOP, and is a strong advocate of fiscal conservatism. Congressional Quarterly found Peterson to have the lowest party loyalty score (at approximately 70 percent) of any member of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation over the past five years (second was retiring Representative Jim Ramstad, and third was Senator Norm Coleman).
Republican Glen Menze, an accountant, is staging a belated rematch against Peterson: in 2000, Menze lost to Peterson by a 68.7 percent to 29.3 percent margin. Menze is running to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, to cut spending, to reduce regulation of small businesses, to stop illegal immigration, to advocate pro-life and pro-traditional marriage policies, and to reduce energy costs through more domestic drilling and developing new nuclear plants, and hydrogen, wind, solar, and bio-fuel technologies.
The 7th Congressional District is one of the more conservative in the state: Tim Pawlenty carried the district by 8.4 points in 2006, George W. Bush carried it by 12.4 points in 2004 and by 14.6 points in 2000. Rod Grams also won the district by 4.4 points over Mark Dayton in 2000. Despite its conservative tendencies, Republicans have not offered up a competitive candidate against Peterson in the district since 1994. While a traditional Democrat in the 7th District may be nervous on Election Day, a Blue Dog Democrat like Peterson will have few worries.