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Election Profile: Minnesota's 7th 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 twenty-first profile in the series is Minnesota's 7th Congressional District.

Candidates:
DFL: Collin C. Peterson (10-term incumbent)
Republican: Lee Byberg
Independence: Glen Menze
Independent: Gene Waldorf

District Geography:
Minnesota's 7th Congressional District comprises counties along the western rim of the state: Becker, Big Stone, Chippewa, Clay, Clearwater, Douglas, Grant, Kandiyohi, Kittson, Lac Qui Parle, Lake of the Woods, Lincoln, Lyon, Mahnomen, Marshall, McLeod, Meeker, Norman, Otter Tail, Pennington, Polk, Pope, Red Lake, Redwood, Renville, Roseau, Sibley, Stevens, Swift, Todd, Traverse, Wilkin, Yellow Medicine, and parts of Beltrami and Stearns counties.

History:
Collin Peterson is one of three Upper Midwesternerns in the House Blue Dog Democrats coalition. Peterson entered Congress by defeating seven-term GOP incumbent Arlan Stangeland by 7.1 points back in 1990. Peterson then narrowly won re-election in 1992 (by 1.3 points) and 1994 (2.6 points) before thoroughly dominating his GOP counterparts from 1996-2002 by an average margin of victory of 37 points.

In 2004, Peterson beat his Republican opponent David Sturrock by 32.3 points and in 2006 he rolled to a 40.7-point victory over Michael J. Barrett.

In 2008, the Congressman enjoyed the largest margin of victory of his career - 44.5 points over Republican Glen Menze (also Peterson's 2000 GOP opponent).

Peterson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has been known to frequently cross party lines and vote with the GOP, as he did on this year's infamous health care legislation.

In 2010, Peterson squares off against Republican Lee Byberg, Menze for a third time (this time on the Independence Party ticket), and independent Gene Waldorf (a former DFL State Representative and Senator).

Outlook:
The 7th Congressional District has the second largest GOP tilt in the Gopher State at +3 points. John McCain carried the district by 7 points in 2008 while George W. Bush won it by 12 points in 2004. Tim Pawlenty also carried the district by a decisive 8.4 points in 2006.

Despite its conservative tendencies, Republicans have not offered up a competitive candidate against Peterson in the district over the last six election cycles. As a result, since redistricting in 2002, Peterson has enjoyed a 37.1-point average margin of victory.

Byberg offers Republicans their best shot to reach 40 percent in the district in 16 years, although the third party and independent candidacies of Menze and Waldorf respectively may make that difficult.

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Previous post: Election Profile: Minnesota's 6th Congressional District
Next post: Election Profile: Minnesota's 8th Congressional District

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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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