WASHINGTON -- Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson says he has two fundraisers scheduled and he's "running at this point" for re-election next year.
"They energized me last time, they got me fired up," said Peterson, in a phone call this week.
By "they" Peterson is referring to national Republicans who, sensing Peterson's Republican-leaning district in a Republican-leaning year, decided to pour more than $8 million into the 2014 race in attempts at unseating the popular 24-year incumbent.
Despite all the outside spending, Peterson walked away from that race with an almost nine point lead over Republican state senator Torrey Westrom. It was one of the biggest National Republican Congressional Committee losses nationally.
"They had the opposite effect of what they thought they were going to," Peterson said.
WASHINGTON -- Angie Craig, a vice president at a medical device company, announced Monday she was planning to run against GOP Rep. John Kline in the Second Congressional District next year.
Craig told the Star Tribune that next month she planned to step down from the executive leadership team at St. Jude Medical to prepare to seek the DFL nomination in 2016. She plans on staying with the company, where she has worked in various management positions for a decade, in a strategic capacity.
She has never run for political office before.
Craig, 42, said she felt compelled to challenge Kline, who is serving his seventh term and chairs the House Education Committee, because she is increasingly disappointed in his voting record.
Craig called him "out of touch" with residents of the Second District. She cited two recent votes: one to defund President Barack Obama's executive immigration order and another GOP measure requiring the work week to be defined as 40 hours, rather than 30 hours.
"I don't think that represents who we are," she said. "I believe we need new perspectives and leaders willing to work toward progress more than ever."
Minnesota's Second Congressional District is slightly Republican leaning and is dubbed an R+2 by political observers, meaning a generic Republican would beat out a generic Democrat by two points in a hypothetical election. Kline beat Democrat Mike Obermueller by 17 points last year.
Craig said she hopes to build a platform that "further strengthens the economy and make sure we have economic security for the middle class."
Craig is married to Cheryl Greene and together they have four sons, two 17 year-olds, a 16 year-old and an 11 year-old. They live in Eagan. She said she was raised by her mother and grandmother in a trailer park in Arkansas. She has lived in Minnesota for 10 years.
"I'm incredibly fortunate and humbled," she said. "I believe my business background and my life experiences make me uniquely qualified to advocate for policies for every family in America."
Republican David Gerson, who has twice before challenged and lost to Kline in the primaries, said Monday he hoped to challenge him again next year.
A Kline spokesman declined comment on Craig or Gerson.
WASHINGTON -- Less than 12 hours after President Barack Obama touted an idea to provide free community college to some students, the chairman of the House Education Committee had a message: No new federal programs.
Republican Rep. John Kline, who represents Minnesota's Second Congressional District and is at the helm of the Education Committee, said he wasn't interested in taking on the president's proposal to make community college free. Kline said he didn't agree with the how the White House planned to pay for it -- by increasing capital gains taxes -- and he didn't think a new federal program was the way to move forward.
In his annual address to both chambers of Congress, Obama proposed free community colleges to students on track to graduate and who had good grades. He said higher education was in the nation's interest and helped strengthen the middle class.
"Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy without a load of debt," Obama said.
But Kline noted existing Pell grants and federal financial aid packages were available for low-income students. In Minnesota, 130,048 people were undergraduates at community and technical colleges. Of those 63 percent sought financial aid and about 35 percent were eligible for Pell grants. The average community college tuition in Minnesota is $5,370 a year.
Kline called the idea too lofty and rhetorically questioned why the president stopped at community colleges. "Why not say all college is free?" he said, in a press gathering in his office Wednesday morning.
Kline said his first priority is getting a No Child Left Behind overhaul to the House floor within the next eight weeks. He said he is optimistic, with a Republican-controlled Senate this time, that they could find common ground and send a bill to President Obama this year.
The chairman also noted he wants to reauthorize the higher education act, but that "we can't just create a new program that we can't pay for."
WASHINGTON -- From students to college presidents to business leaders, Minnesota members are bringing a diverse set of guests to tomorrow night's State of the Union address.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar will bring Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) President Peggy Kennedy.
Sen. Al Franken will bring University of Minnesota Student Body President Joelle Stangler
Rep. Tim Walz, D, First Congressional District will bring Army Ranger Sgt. Thomas Block. He is a Minnesota native and was named Army Times Soldier of the Year for 2014.
Rep. John Kline, R, Second Congressional District -- Staffers did not respond to requests for comment on his guest.
Rep. Erik Paulsen, R, Third Congressional District will bring Minneapolis Police Sergeant Grant Snyder. He is a leader in the Minnesota law enforcement community in combating sex trafficking.
Rep. Betty McCollum, D, Fourth Congressional District will bring Matt Kramer, the president and CEO of the St Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.
Rep. Keith Ellison, D, Fifth Congressional District will bring Veronica Mendez, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha’s (CTUL) Co-Director.
Rep. Tom Emmer, R, Sixth Congressional District will bring Brenton Hayden, who was named "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" and started his own business at 20 years-old. He is from central Minnesota.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D, Seventh Congressional District gave his extra ticket to North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp so she could bring a couple from her state. The two were among the first responders to a school bus-train crash site last year and helped rescue kids.
Rep. Rick Nolan, D, Eighth Congressional District will bring Sophie Cerkvenik of Britt, Minnesota. Sophie is the daughter of a lobbyist and a senior at Virginia High School.
WASHINGTON -- Rep.-elect Tom Emmer is staffing his DC and Minnesota offices with Bachmann-ites.
Emmer, a Republican taking over representation of the Sixth Congressional District after Rep. Michele Bachmann's departure, announced Tuesday that seven of the 13 new staffers hired for his offices were previously working for the congresswoman.
"These individuals offer impressive backgrounds, years of experience, and strong Minnesota ties that will be vital to best serving my constituents," said Emmer, in a statement.
The congressman gets sworn in, along with the rest of the 114th Congress, next week.
Among his new hires:
Robert Boland, senior adviser in Washington, D.C. Previously, Boland served as chief of staff and legislative director to Bachmann.
Jason Frye, legislative director. Previously, Frye was a military legislative assistant to Bachmann.
Mikayla Hall, deputy communications director. She was previously Bachmann's press secretary.
Kevin Wysocki, senior legislative assistant. Wysocki was Bachmann's senior legislative assistant and worked himself up from an internship.
Barbara Harper, constituent services director. She worked in this same role for Bachmann for the past eight years.
Montgomery Pace, scheduler. Pace was an intern last year in Bachmann's office.
Caitlin Fontaine, staff assistant. Fontaine was an intern in Bachmann's office last year.
Additional hires include Becky Alery, who was a spox for GOP Senate candidate Mike McFadden, who lost to Sen. Al Franken in November. Alery is the communications director and will be based in D.C. Karen Miller, deputy district director in Emmer's Minnesota office.
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