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Election Profile: Minnesota's 3rd 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 seventeenth profile in the series is Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District.

Candidates:
Republican: Erik Paulsen (1-term incumbent)
DFL: Jim Meffert
Independence: Jon Oleson

District Geography:
Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District comprises the western suburbs of Hennepin County and a small part of southern Anoka County.

History:
Erik Paulsen, a former state legislator, won the 3rd CD race left open by a retiring Jim Ramstad in 2008, by 7.6 points over DFLer Ashwin Madia.

Ramstad, a moderate to liberal Republican, had entered Congress by winning the open seat left by 10-term Republican Bill Frenzel in 1990, beating DFL nominee Lou Demars by more than a 2:1 margin (34.0 points). Ramstad thoroughly dominated his DFL opponents over the ensuing eight elections, winning by an average margin of 38.4 points. The DFL closed to within 30 points just twice - in 2004 (29.3 points, Deborah Watts) and 2006 (29.9 points, Wendy Wilde).

In 2010, Paulsen will square off against DFLer Jim Meffert, over whom the Congressman has enjoyed more than a 5 to 1 advantage in fundraising and 6 to 1 advantage in cash on hand through mid-October .

Also on the ballot is Independence Party candidate Jon Oleson. David Dillon, the Independence Party nominee in 2008, won 10.6 percent of the vote in that race.

Outlook:
Even though the 3rd CD has no GOP (or Democratic) tilt, with an "even" Partisan Voting Index score, Minnesota (and national) Democrats instead chose to invest more heavily in defeating Michele Bachmann in the much more Republican 6th CD. As a result, Meffert's campaign did not get the same level of support as 6th CD DFL challenger Tarryl Clark, even though the 3rd CD is a much more competitive district for Democrats. Barack Obama carried the 3rd CD by 6 points in 2008 while George W. Bush won it by 3 points in 2004.

One final take-home point: Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District has not voted for a DFL candidate since 1958 - a string of 25 consecutive elections.

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Previous post: Election Profile: Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District
Next post: Election Profile: Minnesota's 4th Congressional District

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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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