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MN-08: An Intriguing Matchup

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Minnesota's 8th Congressional District (comprising the northeastern Iron Range counties), is home to one of the more unusual Congressional races this year, in which DFL incumbent James Obserstar, the senior member of Minnesota's US House delegation, is being challenged by Republican Rod Grams, a former US Representative in his own right (and a former US Senator).

The sixteen-term incumbent Oberstar serves as the highest-ranking democrat on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Oberstar voted against the War in Iraq and is on record as being committed to bringing home U.S. troops as soon as possible.

Rod Grams has previously represented Minnesota's 6th District (defeating 10-year incumbent Democratic Gerry Sikorski in 1992) and the state in the U.S. Senate (replacing the retiring Dave Durenberger in 1996). Grams is campaigning for an air-tight border, economic development in the district, and providing a balanced budget.

Harry Welty - a columnist and former school board member - is also running for the seat under the Unity Party banner (although he has pledged to caucus with the Democratic Party if elected).

Oberstar was first elected to Congress in 1974 when he filled the open seat left by 14-term congressman John A. Blatnik in Minnesota's 8th District. Oberstar beat his Republican opponent in that election, Jerome Arnold, by 36 points. Oberstar has outlasted his predecessor by winning a string of 16 straight elections, by an average victory margin of 46 points. The GOP has failed to field a candidate against Obserstar in two elections (1976 and 1978), and the closest a Republican candidate has come to beating Oberstar is 29 points in 1992 (Independent-Republican Phil Herwig). Oberstar has won by more than 40 points in 9 of his 16 campaigns, and in 2004 he defeated GOP challenger Mark Groettum by 33 points.

The Oberstar-Grams matchup is intriguing to political junkies, especially with Grams' attempt at a very novel pathway to Washington, D.C.: US House via US Senate via US House. His chosen path in 2006, however, is filled with obstacles: Oberstar has been a fixture on the 8th District scene for generations and has five times more cash on hand ($475,000) than does Grams ($93,000) according to the Federal Election Commission's October 2006 report.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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