Minnesota, meet your 2014 U.S. House candidates

Rick Nolan, left, and Stewart Mills III
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Rick Nolan, left, and Stewart Mills III

Minnesota Republican and Democratic activists have selected their combatants for this year’s U.S. House battles.

Republicans are hoping to wrest the First Congressional District from Democrats, since President Obama won it by just a little over a percentage point in 2012. But so far, the race here has not netted national attention.

Democratic-endorsed Rep. Tim Walz had more than $400,000 cash on hand at the end of March for his re-election. The former teacher, coach and 20-year veteran of the Army National Guard was first elected in 2006 and won re-election last year by more than 15 percentage points. He’ll face off against Republican Aaron Miller, who beat out a crowded field to win endorsement. A first-time candidate, Miller is an account executive and a veteran of the Army and Army Reserves. He had $43,000 cash on hand this spring, including a $40,000 loan he made to himself late last year.

The Second Congressional District should be competitive, given that Obama won it in 2012 by a few hundred votes at the same time Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline won it by more than 8 percentage points. But national Democrats have not treated this race as highly targeted yet. Kline, chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, trounced a libertarian-minded challenger at his endorsing convention and has more than $1.65 million on hand. He will run against Democrat-endorsed Mike Obermueller, an attorney and former state representative who lost to Kline in 2012. Obermueller, whose campaign slogan is “Finishing the job we started together,” had about $238,000 cash on hand at the end of March and still had debt to himself from his 2012 campaign.

The fight in the heavily Republican Sixth Congressional District has garnered attention, largely because Rep. Michele Bachmann is retiring, leaving an open seat. Tom Emmer, a former House member and one-time gubernatorial candidate, bested rivals in April to win the GOP nod, but still faces a contested August primary. In 2010 Emmer came within 9,000 votes of defeating DFLer Mark Dayton. Emmer has more than $250,000 cash on hand as of last report.

The winner of that primary will run against Sartell Mayor Joe Perske, who narrowly won the Democratic endorsement in early May. Perske is a former Sartell City Council member and is a teacher and coach. He had $10,000 cash on hand as of the end of March.

By the numbers, the Seventh Congressional District should be highly competitive. But it has not featured high profiles races in recent years and may not this year either. Republicans had hoped that longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson would step down after this term, but no luck. Peterson has long held the Republican-leaning district — often by double digits — and easily won endorsement for re-election. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee and had $522,000 cash on hand as of last report. Peterson will run against GOP-endorsed state Sen. Torrey Westrom. An attorney, Westrom has been in the Legislature for nearly two decades, first in the House, now in the Senate. He had $170,000 cash on hand as of late March.

The Eighth Congressional District will likely be Minnesota’s fiercest fought. National interests are pouring money into television ads to sway voters who swapped a Democratic representative for a Republican, then switched back in recent years. U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan has DFL backing to fight to keep the northern Minnesota district. In 2012, Nolan ousted one-term Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack. Nolan had $478,000 cash on hand as of his last report. He’ll go up against Republican-endorsed Stewart Mills, a scion of the Mills Fleet Farm family. National Republicans consider the first-time candidate one of their top recruits this year. He ended March with $355,000 cash on hand.

 

 

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Rick Nolan, left, and Stewart Mills III