GOP loses veteran Representative who staved off DFLers in five consecutive competitive races

The announcement by Minnesota Representative Rob Eastlund on Thursday that he would not seek reelection this fall gives the DFL a better, though still quite distant, chance at a pick-up in November.

Eastlund, a five-term Representative, has survived several close shaves in his district, HD 17A, situated north of the Twin Cities, encompassing cities such as Cambridge and Isanti:

· In 2000, prior to redistricting in the HD 18A contest, Eastlund edged DFLer Dick Welch in an open seat race (previously held by Republican Jim Rostberg) by 6.5 points. Eastlund won just 45.3 percent of the vote, with Independence candidate Clyde Miller notching more than 12 percent.
· In 2002, in HD 17A, Eastlund again won by 6.5 points, this time over DFL nominee Pat Sunberg, with 53.2 percent of the vote.
· In 2004, Eastlund won by 6.0 points, winning 52.9 percent of the vote, in a rematch against Sundberg.
· During the Democratic tsunami of 2006, when DFLers netted 19 House seats, Eastlund narrowly defeated DFLer Melissa Jabas by just 195 votes. Eastlund garnered 50.5 percent of the vote, in his 1.1-point victory.
· Eastlund had his most comfortable victory in 2008 when he defeated DFLer Jim Godfrey by 9.6 points with 53.2 percent of the vote – the largest support he had received to date.

HD 17A is decidedly tilted Republican – John McCain carried the district by 15.0 points in 2008 while George W. Bush carried it by 16.7 points in 2004.

Those DFLers who have carried the district for statewide office have done so by much narrower margins than their statewide tally:

· In 2002, DFL Attorney General Mike Hatch carried the district by 5.0 points (13.8 points statewide).
· In 2006, DFL Senator Amy Kobuchar carried the district by 6.7 points (20.1 points statewide).
· In 2006, DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson carried the district by 1.0 point (12.5 points statewide).
· In 2006, DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto carried the district by 3.3 points (10.8 points statewide).

The vast majority of HD 17A is represented in Congress by DFL U.S. Representative Jim Oberstar (MN-08), with approximately 15 percent of the district represented by Republican Michele Bachmann (MN-06).

Oberstar also won HD 17A by much narrower margins than his overall congressional district-wide tallies: by 15.5 points in 2002 (37.4 points district-wide), by 11.9 points in 2004 (33.0 points district-wide), by 12.4 points in 2006 (by 29.2 points district-wide), and by 18.0 points in 2008 (35.5 points district-wide).

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