Like Minnesotans ever hopeful as the Vikings go to training camp, so too Republicans begin every election cycle thinking this might be the year they take out U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who has represented the Seventh District since 1991.
You can hardly blame Republicans, given Peterson’s district. President Donald Trump won the district by 31 points in 2016. These days, the entire Seventh could get soaked with rain and hardly a Democrat would get wet — there just aren’t many left.
And Republicans are getting closer: After defeating state Sen. Torrey Westrom by 8.5 points in 2014, Peterson beat the unknown Dave Hughes by 5 points in 2016 and less than 4.5 points in 2018. The trend line doesn’t look good for the sometimes cantankerous but often amusing chair of the House Agriculture Committee.
Hughes announced recently he’s running again. But Republicans pine for either a Peterson retirement or a decent challenger — someone known in the district who can raise money, hire talented staff and show presence.
So they’re obviously excited by former state Sen. Michelle Fischbach, who briefly became lieutenant governor after Tina Smith was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2017. Fischbach was the first woman to serve as president of the Minnesota Senate. Her husband, Scott Fischbach, is executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, which means she can tap into national abortion opposition money.
The news that Fischbach took a job with the Central Minnesota Builders Association seemed to suggest she did not plan to run, but the latest chatter suggests she’s still in the picture.
My colleague Torey Van Oot picked up from a source that Fischbach was spotted at a recent GOP fundraiser. When asked by an attendee if she was running for the Seventh, she told the group she’s “working through the details.”
Fischbach would make this a marquee race, but Peterson will be tough to beat.
I’m reminded of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s 2010 race in the middle of the worst recession in modern Nevada history. Despite his sagging approval ratings, his campaign and his many Republican supporters successfully made the case that the state needed a powerful player in Washington who could bring home some bacon. That and orchestrating a weak opponent lifted him to a relatively easy victory.
Similarly, Peterson’s gavel as head of the Ag Committee will be a powerful selling point during this distressing time for farmers in the Seventh.
When Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue appeared at Farmfest last week, who was in the photos with him? It wasn’t Dave Hughes.
And Peterson has powerful friends in agribusiness. Politico recently reported he’ll get help from something called the Committee for Stronger Rural Communities, which has raised more than $300,000, with $150,000 of that from American Crystal Sugar.
Good luck, Vikings fans. Maybe this will be your year.