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Election Profile: Minnesota's 1st Congressional District

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Smart Politics is running a series of election profiles of Upper Midwestern congressional races leading up to the November 2nd elections. The series will culminate with Smart Politics' official projections. The fifteenth profile in the series is Minnesota's 1st Congressional District.

Candidates:
DFL: Tim Walz (2-term incumbent)
Republican: Randy Demmer
Independence: Steven Wilson
Party Free: Lars Johnson

District Geography:
Minnesota's 1st Congressional District comprises counties in the southern rim of the state: Blue Earth, Brown, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Houston, Jackson, Martin, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmstead, Pipestone, Rock, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Watonwan, and Winona.

History:
Tim Walz's 5.6-point victory over six-term Republican incumbent Gil Gutknecht was one of the biggest U.S. House upsets across the country in 2006 (though predicted by Smart Politics). Gutknecht had won his three previous reelection campaigns by an average of 21.9 points.

With the exception of then moderate Democrat Tim Penny's six-term service from 1984-1992, the GOP had won every 1st District contest from 1892 through 2004.

Representative Walz followed that up with a 29.6-point victory over Republican Brian Davis during the Democratic wave of 2008 to return for a second term in D.C.

Walz, an Army National Guard and Iraq War veteran and former teacher, serves on the House Committees on Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Veterans' Affairs.

In 2010, Walz faces a much tougher political environment, and a much stronger opponent in GOP State Representative Randy Demmer (HD 29A).

Also on the ballot are Independence Party candidate Steven Wilson and Lars Johnson, who is running under the Party Free banner. During the last three election cycles, Independence Party candidates received 4.5 percent of the vote in 2008 (Gregory Mikkelson), 3.7 percent in 2006 (Douglas Williams), and 4.8 percent in 2004 (Mikkelson).

Outlook:
Although only one of its contests has been decided by less than 24 points since redistricting in 2002, the Gopher State's 1st CD has been the 81st most competitive district in the nation during this four-cycle span. The district is the 228th most Republican in the country, with a slight +1 GOP Partisan Voting Index tilt over the last two presidential elections. Barack Obama carried the district by 4 points in 2008 and George W. Bush won it by 4 points in 2004.

One difference between Walz's defense of his seat during the GOP wave of 2010 and Gutknecht's defense during the 2006 Democratic wave is that Gutknecht had made several gaffes during the year leading up to Election Day.

Although the 1st CD race has made national waves, Congressman Walz has outraised Demmer by a 2.8 to 1 margin through mid-October and had more than seven times the amount of cash on hand.

Add to that, only 8 of 203 Minnesota U.S. House incumbents have been defeated in the general election after receiving at least 60 percent of the vote during the previous election cycle, as Walz did in 2008.

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Previous post: Election Profile: Wisconsin's 8th Congressional District
Next post: Election Profile: Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District

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Remains of the Data

Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

Political Crumbs

Six for Thirteen

Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


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