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Election Profile: Minnesota's 8th Congressional District (2008)

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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-fourth profile in the series is Minnesota's 8th Congressional District race.

Candidates:
DFL: James L. Oberstar (17-term incumbent)
Republican: Michael Cummins

District Geography:
Minnesota's 8th Congressional District comprises the northeastern Iron Range counties: Aitkin, Carlton, Cass, Chisago, Cook, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Isanti, Itasca, Kanabec, Koochiching, Lake, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, St. Louis, Wadena, and the southeastern part of Beltrami County.

History:
Oberstar was first elected to Congress in 1974 when he filled the open seat left by 14-term DFL Representative John A. Blatnik in Minnesota's 8th District. Oberstar beat his Republican opponent in that election, Jerome Arnold, by 35.8 points. Oberstar has now outlasted his predecessor, and is the longest serving Congressman in Gopher State history. Oberstar has won 16 straight re-election campaigns, by an average victory margin of 45.6 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 29.4 points - both in 1992 (Independent-Republican Phil Herwig) and 2006 (former GOP U.S. Senator Rod Grams).

James Oberstar serves as Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Oberstar voted against the War in Iraq and is committed to bringing home U.S. troops "safely but soon. He is also advocating fiscal responsibility to combat the federal deficit, delivering increased benefits to veterans, and increasing the federal minimum wage.

Republican Michael Cummins, a project manager at Seal Guard Systems, is running a campaign that is "pro-life, pro-land rights, pro-2nd Amendment, pro-drilling.

Outlook:
The 8th Congressional District has been one of the most reliably Democratic in recent high-profile elections. In 2006, DFL-er Amy Klobuchar won her Senate seat in by 24.0 points and DFL nominee Mike Hatch carried the district by 11.1 points over Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty. John Kerry carried the 8th District by 6.5 points in 2004 and Al Gore won by 5.4 points in the district in 2000. The DFL has held this U.S. House seat since 1946, and the 34-year serving Oberstar will easily return to Washington D.C. for two more years to his prestigious Chairmanship on the Transportation Committee.

Previous post: Election Profile: Minnesota's 7th Congressional District (2008)
Next post: Election Profile: Minnesota U.S. Senate

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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 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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