State Sen. Torrey Westrom is stepping up to vie against Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson.
The Republican will hold campaign appearances to announce his bid on Thursday in Elbow Lake, his hometown, and Moorhead, according to a release.
Westrom is attorney who joined the Minnesota House in 1997 and was elected to the Senate last year. According to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, he is the first known blind member of the Legislature.
Republicans have long eyed Peterson's district.
Last year, Republican Mitt Romney picked up 54 percent of the vote in the western Seventh Congressional District Peterson has long represented. That same year, Peterson won 60 percent of the vote. In 2010, which was a very good year for Republicans, Peterson won 55 percent of the vote to Republican Lee Byberg's 38 percent.
Three Democratic Minnesota U.S. House members — Rick Nolan, Collin Peterson and Tim Walz — bucked their party leaders on Friday and backed a Republican bill that would allow insurers to keep selling policies that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act.
The legislation would grant a reprieve to Americans, including an estimated 140,000 in Minnesota, who would lose their current insurance policies despite a promise from President Obama that his health care law wouldn’t strip away their preferred coverage.
Democrats in moderate districts faced a tough choice with their votes: back legislation that would allow constituents to keep existing insurance plans or rally behind Obama’s signature health care policy.
The bill passed the House 261 to 157. Nearly all 39 Democratic supporters hail from districts where voters favored Republican Mitt Romney or where Obama won by a slim margin in the 2012 presidential election.
Admitting that his administration botched the health care rollout, Obama said Thursday that health insurance companies can extend canceled policies by one year even if they don’t meet the health law’s requirements. The president shouldered the blame for the problems.
Republicans argued Friday’s bill, the Keep Your Health Care Plan Act, would uphold Obama’s promise to let people keep their current health insurance plans. Many Democrats saw the Republican bill as an effort to undermine the Affordable Care Act by allowing insurers to continue selling plans that aren’t compliant with the law.
Democratic Party leaders hoped that Obama’s proposed fix would prevent rank-and-file members from crossing the aisle in support of the GOP bill.
But Republicans ratcheted up the pressure as millions of Americans received notice that they won’t be able to keep their preferred plans. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House Republicans, targeted Walz and other Democrats in potential swing districts who voted for the law in 2010. The lone Minnesota Democrat to vote against the Affordable Care Act when it passed in 2010, Peterson had already announced plans to support the Republican bill.
Minnesota’s House Republicans — Michele Bachmann, John Kline and Erik Paulsen — voted with their party on the legislation. Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum opposed the bill.
The bill may have political ramifications but it has likely hit a legislative dead end. The White House issued a veto threat Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann is among the 32 House Republicans who signed a letter to President Obama on Wednesday, urging him to request the resignation of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius because of glitches in the Affordable Care Act website, HealthCare.gov.
“With more than three years to prepare for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we are surprised to see the level of uncertainty, confusion and incompetence that has riddled the Health Insurance Marketplace since October 1,” Bachmann and the other members write.
“Unfortunately, as we have seen in numerous news reports, many Americans have found it impossible to sign up for the required health coverage or to simply learn about the new plans and associated costs. The scope of the problem is so great that, were this a private company or military command the CEO or general would have been fired.”
Democrats have also criticized the health care reform law’s troublesome rollout. On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan said it was time for Obama to “man up, find out who was responsible and fire them.”
But, unlike Bachmann, Nolan stopped short of calling for the dismissal of any specific administration official or contractor.
"There are people like myself who supported the Affordable Care Act, but I'm not oblivious to the fact that this layout has done harm and damage to the brand," Nolan said.
The northern Minnesota congressman is among 11 House Democrats that Republicans are targeting with radio ads criticizing the website.
In the ads from the National Republican Congressional Committee, a woman says, “If you're facing all these issues just signing up, imagine how difficult it could be to get medical care. Finding a doctor's appointment will be a nightmare. And have you looked into how much your insurance premiums will rise?"
The ads are also running in the districts of U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz.
Congressional incumbents in two potential swing districts, U.S. Reps. John Kline and Tim Walz, have healthy fundraising leads over their announced opponents.
In the Second Congressional District, Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline has more than $1.3 million stocked away for his re-election campaign after raising $367,000 during the third quarter.
Kline’s Republican challenger, David Gerson, raised $2,085 during the quarter and has $2,000 banked for his bid, according to data filed with the Federal Election Commission. Gerson challenged Kline in last year’s Republican primary, capturing 15 percent of the vote.
Among the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, attorney Mike Obermueller of Eagan raised $73,000 during the quarter, which includes the months of July, August and September. He has $119,000 cash on hand.
Obermueller is making a second run at Kline after losing to him by eight percentage points in last year’s election. But with roughly a year to go until Election Day 2014, Kline’s war chest is 11 times larger than Obermueller’s.
The second district covers the suburbs south of the Twin Cities.
The campaign finance reports for Democratic candidates, Thomas Craft and Paula Overby, were not available on the FEC website Tuesday afternoon.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz has $238,500 banked for his 2014 re-election bid in southern Minnesota’s First Congressional District after raising $176,648 during the third quarter.
Among the three Republicans seeking to oust Walz, state Rep. Mike Benson of Rochester has $14,707 stockpiled for the race and businessman Aaron Miller of Byron has $54,714 banked. Blue Earth businessman Jim Hagedorn’s finance report was not available on the FEC website Tuesday afternoon.
Benson raised $28,158 during the quarter. Miller loaned his campaign $40,000 and collected another $16,127 in donations.
In the state’s Eight Congressional District, Republican challenger Stewart Mills raised almost $244,000 during the quarter, with Mills and his wife contributing about $10,000 of that total, his campaign reported. Incumbent Democrat Rick Nolan’s campaign finance reports were not available on the FEC website Tuesday afternoon.
Four of Minnesota’s representatives – Democrats Keith Ellison in the Fifth District, Betty McCollum in the Fourth District and Collin Peterson in the Seventh District and Republican Erik Paulsen – do not have announced opponents.
Paulsen raised more than $376,000 and has more than $1.5 million in the bank. Ellison raised $309,000 and has $186,248 stockpiled. McCollum collected $99,219 and has $89,076 in the bank. Peterson has about $227,000 cash-on-hand after raising $83,000 during the quarter.
Click here for campaign finance reports from the Sixth Congressional District, where Rep. Michele Bachmann will not seek re-election.
Interested in running against a congressional incumbent?
What about an incumbent who tends to win by double digits?
How about taking on a Democratic incumbent in a district that tends to vote for Republicans?
Well then, the Minnesota Seventh District Congressional Republicans might be looking for you.
"We are definitely on the search for somebody," said Craig Bishop, the chairman of the western Minnesota GOP group.
As it has before, the Republican group has set up a search committee to find potential candidates to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson next year.
"A good potential candidate would be someone with a passion for our country's freedoms and future, someone who is concerned about the direction our nation is headed and someone willing to put in the hard work and major fundraising necessary to run for Congress," the Republican district leaders said in an email. "If you know someone who might make a strong candidate for Congress, or if you have any interest yourself, please call us or reply via email."
Republicans have long eyed the Republican-leaning Seventh District and the national GOP has talked up its chances of unseating Peterson in 2014. The National Republican Congressional Committee made a small ad buy targeting Peterson during the August recess.
Peterson is one of only 25 House members in a district won by the presidential candidate of the opposite party. Last year, Peterson won 60 percent of the vote, while Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney picked up 54 percent of the district's votes.
Rumors of a possible Peterson retirement, which swirl every two years, make Republicans even more hopeful. But Peterson, most recently, has indicated he is thinking about running again.