WASHINGTON -- The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America on Friday backed Democratic Rep. Tim Walz to be the highest ranking Democrat on the House Veteran's Affairs Committee.
Walz sought the endorsement from the IAVA -- known to be the more brash, younger veterans service organization, outspoken on VA systemic failures and veterans suicide.
"Mr. Walz, having served for 24 years in the Army National Guard, is the highest ranking enlisted service member to ever serve in Congress, and his military experience has and will continue to significantly enhance the caucus’s contributions to this Committee," the organization said, in a statement. "He has been intimately involved in helping pass legislation to improve care to wounded veterans, to help veterans seeking employment after they leave service, and to eliminate the red tape."
Walz faces a tough battle in his bid to be ranking member of the VA committee primarily because seniority politics often rule in these situations. He is running against the committee's most senior Democrat, Florida Rep. Corinne Brown, who has been on the committee for 22 years and is supported by Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
Walz, who served in the Army National Guard in active duty during the recent wars, is stressing service and experience in a legion of lobbying calls and meetings he's having with his colleagues this week on Capitol Hill.
He said in an interview Thursday that there is an opportunity to transform the VA from the top bottom strategically.
"I'm trying to make the case that the problem with the VA was that it was simply putting one foot in front of the other without a strategic plan," he said. "I'm making the case that the hard day-to-day issues ... including veterans suicide ... can be solved if we build coalitions with providers."
Walz, who has served on the committee since 2007, has been outspoken on veterans suicide and on behalf of those suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The committee vote will be held with secret ballots among the Democratic caucus should be held in the next week or two.
WASHINGTON -- Fresh off a re-election win, Democratic Rep. Tim Walz is taking on the party establishment in asking for support to be the top Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Seniority is a big factor in leading committees in Congress, which means Walz's quest will be an uphill battle. Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi is backing the most senior Democrat on the committee, Florida Rep. Corinne Brown.
Walz, a 50-year-old retired command sergeant major in the Army National Guard who just won his fifth term, says he has a keen idea and track record of understanding what veterans need. He has served on the VA committee since 2007 and said the current system was "in crisis."
In a letter Walz sent to fellow House Dems late last week, he said caring for men and women in uniform and their families "has been my number one priority since being elected to the House of Representatives."
Walz cited fighting the scourge of veteran suicide, ensuring veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other toxins receive appropriate care and benefits, and enhancing mental health services to veterans suffering from PTSD as accomplishments.
"Our VA system is in crisis and now, more than ever, Democrats need a strong, respected voice to address these problems head on," he wrote.
Walz's office said Monday the congressman was unavailable for an interview on this topic. Members of Congress return Wednesday to finish work through December before the new Congress starts January.
Walz's primary opponent, Rep. Brown, has served on the VA committee for 22 years.
In a competing letter she also wrote to fellow Dems last week, Brown cited bringing a new VA outpatient clinic to her district and bringing "tens of millions of dollars in funding for the Gainesville VA Medical Center" as reason she should be chosen over Walz.
If selected, Brown would be the first African-American to serve as ranking member of the committee, she said in the letter.
Members vote on committee leadership posts in the next couple weeks.
In a letter sent to Democrats on Monday, Pelosi said seniority should not be the only factor in choosing leaders.
"There was enormous respect for the senior Member, but our colleagues viewed seniority as a consideration not a determination," she wrote.
Minnesota Rep. Tony Cornish said he is very interested in running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in 2016.
Cornish, of Vernon Center, will begin his seventh term in the Legislature next year. He was unopposed in his re-election and netted 96 percent of the vote.
Walz, a former teacher and National Guard member, has held the southern First Congressional District since defeating longtime Rep. Gil Gutknecht in 2006. He won re-election on Tuesday with 54 percent of the vote.
Cornish, a straight-talking former lawman, said he is "seriously considering" a run against Walz in two years.
"I am just waiting to see what the donors and Republicans think," Cornish said. "I'm thinking about it still."
But, he said, he won't think about it for long.
"I'm always one that believes in coming out early," he said.
His interest was first disclosed by the Mankato Free Press.
Photo: Rep. Tony Cornish in 2011, chairing the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee/ Source: Dave Brewster, Star Tribune
With fundraising numbers in for U.S. House candidates, the disparities in fundraising are clear.
Incumbents, in both contested and safer seats, have far more cash at the ready for the final stretch before the election.
Explore the congressional map below to view the candidates' campaign cash.
Hover over the chart below to see the candidates' hauls arranged, by district.
Alejandra Matos contributed to this report.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt
Absentee ballots are streaming to election offices across the state but very few of those early voters are new voters, according to a Star Tribune analysis.
Only 5.6 percent of the nearly 34,000 voters who have already had ballots accepted did not vote in the last midterm election year, 2010. Another five percent did not vote in 2010 or 2012, the last presidential election year.
The analysis indicates that despite pushes from both Democrats and Republicans, new voters are not yet availing themselves of the law that allows anyone to vote by absentee.
About 34,000 people voted by absentee ballot as of Oct. 14. Another 6,000, in small, rural precincts, voted by mail.
Of the people who cast absentee ballots, 29 percent also voted absentee in both the 2010 and 2012 elections. Another 31 percent went to the polls in both of those election years.
The analysis also shows that more voters who have already had ballots counted come from Democratic areas than from Republican areas. By county, by Minnesota House district and even by precinct, more ballots are flowing in from areas that lean toward Democrats than lean toward Republicans.
Nearly half of absentee ballots have been cast by voters who live in Democratic House districts, 32 percent came from those in Republican House districts and about 19 percent came from swing districts.
Minnesota voters do not register by party so the Star Tribune does not have access to the personal politics of voters.
Keith Downey, chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party, and Ken Martin, chairman of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, have both been pouring over absentee voter list. Both parties have invested in identifying voters by party.
With that data, the DFL and the Republican Party have come up with different results.
Martin, the DFL chairman, said their numbers show that 59 percent of absentee ballots have been cast by voters they have identified as Democrats. Martin said many of those Democrats are infrequent voters -- exactly the demographic they have need to turnout if the DFL is to do well this year.
The Republican Party shows statewide 39 percent of absentee votes so far have come from Republicans, 36 percent came from Democrats and 25 percent came from independent or unidentified voters, Republican chair Downey said.
Across the state, significantly more voters are opting to vote absentee than had in the 2010 election, according to the secretary of state.
Compared to nearly 40,000 accepted ballots as of Wednesday, election officials had only accepted 23,000 absentee ballots by this point in the 2010 election.
This year for the first time, anyone who wants to vote absentee can do so regardless of whether they can show up at the polls on Election Day. Previously, voters would have to offer an excuse for why they needed to vote absentee.
Below, see the number of ballots already cast and accepted, by county.
Updated to reflect more specific numbers.
|Vikings (7)||Health care (1)|
|1st District (163)||2nd District (164)|
|3rd District (124)||4th District (100)|
|5th District (179)||6th District (561)|
|Funding (673)||Health care (257)|
|Minnesota U.S. senators (648)||Minnesota campaigns (1627)|
|Minnesota congressional (881)||Minnesota governor (1798)|
|Minnesota legislature (2195)||Minnesota state senators (903)|
|National campaigns (512)||President Obama (432)|
|State budgets (896)||Celebrities (1)|
|Anoka (1)||Fridley (1)|
|2012 Presidential election (325)||7th District (123)|
|8th District (243)||NHL news (1)|
|Gov. Tim Pawlenty (456)||Political ads (126)|
|Recount (98)||Gov. Mark Dayton (1406)|
|Democrats (1309)||Republicans (1500)|
|Morning Hot Dish newsletter (188)||Sept11 (1)|
|Public safety (2)||Marriage Amendment News (1)|
|Voter ID News (2)||Budget news (4)|