Political rumors had been abounding for the past couple of weeks that former Rep. Jason Lewis (R) had decided to challenge Sen. Tina Smith (D), but the ex-Congressman and radio talk show host would only admit to be “considering” his political options. Apparently, the rumors are about to bear fruit. Minnesota sources indicate that Mr. Lewis will announce his Senate candidacy at the State Fair next week.
Sen. Smith, the state’s former Lt. Governor, was appointed to replace Al Franken when he resigned from the Senate early in 2018. She was then elected to fill the balance of the term, scoring a 53-42% win over state Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point). Mr. Lewis was elected to the House in 2016 with a 47-45% win over businesswoman Angie Craig (D). Last November, Ms. Craig rebounded to unseat Rep. Lewis with a 53-47% victory spread.
Sen. Smith will be favored for re-election, but President Trump targeting the state after losing by just 1.5 percentage points in 2016 suggests that serious political resources will be expended in the state that should assist Lewis in making the Senate race competitive.
Though House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) continues to remain coy about his re-election plans as always, it is presumed he will seek re-election for a 16th term next year. Officially, Rep. Peterson says he will make a final decision in January or February. But, he has already filed a 2020 campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission and is actively raising money.
His 7th District of Minnesota is an interesting seat. This is the most Republican and pro-Trump district (Trump ’16: 61.8%) in the country that elects a Democrat to the US House. It will almost assuredly go Republican if Mr. Peterson decides to retire.
Detecting a surge for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in several states and national presidential polling, she now has captured an outright lead in at least one state. Change Research polled the Minnesota Democratic electorate (6/8-12; 772 MN likely Democratic primary voters) in anticipation of the state’s presidential primary scheduled for Super Tuesday, March 3rd, and finds her atop the large field.
According to the Change data, Sen. Warren is projected to hold a slight 21-20-19-16-11% edge over former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), home state Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, respectively. Minnesota carries 75 first ballot delegates to the Democratic National Convention, ranking it as the 17th largest voting entity.
Without any fanfare, western Minnesota Congressman and House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) filed a new FEC campaign committee for the 2020 election cycle, though he has yet to confirm that he will seek an 11th term. The signs, however, point to him attempting to continue his long congressional tenure. In the past few cycles, the Congressman was coy about whether he would run again all the way to the candidate filing deadline, so his actions this year are consistent with past behavior.
Mr. Peterson’s re-election may not be a slam dunk, however. President Trump scored 62% in the 7th District back in 2016, his strongest showing in any CD that a Democrat represents. Additionally, the Congressman’s own political performance yielded tighter-than-expected 52% victories in both 2018 and ’16. Thus, Republicans are looking to target this district next year presuming they can recruit a stronger GOP candidate.
Another re-do campaign looks to be on tap in southern Minnesota. In one of three Democratic seats that flipped to the Republicans, and one of those was due solely to Pennsylvania redistricting, freshman Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester) nipped Democrat Dan Feehan by just 1,315 votes last November, a 50.1 – 49.7% victory margin. Yesterday, Mr. Feehan announced that he will return for a re-match next year.
The 1st District has been trending more Republican in recent elections as evidenced by the Hagedorn win and President Trump’s 53-38% victory spread in the last presidential election. Previously, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz represented the seat for six terms until winning his statewide election last November.
Retired Air Force officer Dave Hughes (R) has twice challenged veteran Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) and, with little in the way of national fanfare, has recorded vote percentages of 47 and 48 in the last two consecutive elections. Yesterday, he announced that he will return for a third campaign next year.
In 2016, Mr. Hughes spent under $20,000 for his entire campaign and his finish was credited more with President Trump racking up a 62-31% margin over Hillary Clinton in the 7th District rather than voters responding positively to the Republican congressional campaign. But, in 2018, a bad Republican electoral year, Mr. Hughes actually increased his vote percentage while spending just $250,000.
Now, with Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano) in charge of the National Republican Congressional Committee it is likely that MN-7, for the first time, will see some outside attention in this coming election cycle.
As expected, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar joined the Democratic presidential field on Sunday, announcing in the open air during a Minneapolis snow storm. Meanwhile, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren officially converted her exploratory committee into a formal campaign entity. We now have 11 Democrats who have either declared their candidacies or formed working exploratory committees.
Another US Senator is set to enter the 2020 presidential contest. Reports suggest that Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will officially enter the Democratic contest this weekend. She will join fellow Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who have either announced their candidacy or formed an exploratory committee. Sen. Klobuchar will be the first candidate from the Midwest. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is a possible contender but has yet to make any kind of formal announcement.
In one of the few Republican conversions of a Democratic seat, GOP businessman Jim Hagedorn (R), whose father served four terms in the US House, defeated Democrat Dan Feehan in another race that has been finally projected. Mr. Hagedorn will succeed Democrat Tim Walz who left the House to run successfully for Governor. The Hagedorn victory margin was a scant 1,312 votes, or 50.2 – 49.8%. This is the second consecutive close election in this southern Minnesota district that covers most of the area on the Iowa border. In 2016, Rep. Walz was re-elected with just a 50.3% margin.
Two other seats also went from Democrat to Republican, another in Minnesota, and one in Pennsylvania.
A new Minneapolis Star Tribune/Minnesota Public Radio poll (10/15-17; 800 MN likely voters) finds state Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Croix River Valley) closing the gap against appointed Senator Tina Smith (D). This survey finds the new Senator’s lead to be only 47-41%. To put the margin in perspective, the Star Tribune/MPR study also tested Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), who is also on the ballot. In her race, Sen. Klobuchar holds a commanding 56-33% advantage over state Rep. Jim Newberger (R-Becker). The Smith-Housley race continues to be one to watch.
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