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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

Gender Equality in the US House: A State-by State Quarter-Century Report Card (1989-2014)

A study of 5,325 congressional elections finds the number of female U.S. Representatives has more than tripled over the last 25 years, but the rate at which women are elected to the chamber still varies greatly between the states.

Political Crumbs

Small Club in St. Paul

Mark Dayton is one of just three Minnesotans ever elected to three different statewide offices. Dayton, of course, had previously served as State Auditor (1991-1995) and U.S. Senator (2001-2007) before winning the governorship in 2010. At that time, he joined Republicans Edward Thye and J.A.A. Burnquist on this very short list. Burnquist was elected lieutenant governor in 1914 but then became governor after the death of Democrat Winfield Hammond in 1915. He then won the gubernatorial elections of 1916 and 1918 and eight terms as attorney general two decades later (1939-1955). Thye was similarly first elected lieutenant governor of the Gopher State and became governor after the resignation of fellow GOPer Harold Stasson in 1943. Thye won one additional full term as governor in 1944 and then two terms to the U.S. Senate (1947-1959). Twenty Minnesotans have been elected to two different statewide offices.


Respect Your Elders?

With retirement announcements this year by veteran U.S. Representatives such as 30-term Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, 20-term Democrat George Miller of California, and 18-term Republican Tom Petri of Wisconsin, it is no surprise that retirees from the 113th Congress are one of the most experienced cohorts in recent decades. Overall, these 24 exiting members of the House have served an average of 11.0 terms - the second longest tenure among retirees across the last 18 cycles since 1980. Only the U.S. Representatives retiring in 2006 had more experience, averaging 11.9 terms. (In that cycle, 10 of the 11 retiring members served at least 10 terms, with GOPer Bill Jenkins of Tennessee the lone exception at just five). Even without the aforementioned Dingell, the average length of service in the chamber of the remaining 23 retirees in 2014 is 10.2 terms - which would still be the third highest since 1980 behind the 2006 and 2012 (10.5 terms) cycles.


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