Former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach emerged from a pack of five Republicans in Tuesday’s Seventh Congressional District primary to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who is a top national target as the GOP seeks to take control of the U.S. House.
“I have been focused on defeating Collin Peterson and representing western Minnesota on all of their values and priorities,” Fischbach said in a statement after the race was called in her favor. “As voters in greater Minnesota watch our cities burning, they know the future of our country is at stake.”
Republicans hold three of Minnesota’s eight seats in Congress and see at least two potential targets in the state: Peterson, and DFL Rep. Angie Craig in the Second District, which runs from the southern Twin Cities suburbs to Wabasha County.
Peterson, who has long represented the sprawling western district that has become overwhelmingly Republican, faced only token DFL primary opposition. Fischbach went into her contested primary with the backing of President Donald Trump and the Minnesota GOP.
In the heated Fifth District race, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar beat challenger Antone Melton-Meaux, who conceded the race about an hour after the polls closed.
Few of the House primary races were truly competitive, and without challengers some congressional races were not on the ballot Tuesday at all.
Neither Craig nor her GOP-endorsed challenger, Tyler Kistner, faced primary opponents. Kistner has had strong fundraising numbers in a district Trump narrowly won in 2016. Craig lost her first bid for the seat that year. But in 2020, she said, “For a district like mine, Joe Biden is a great [presidential] candidate for Democrats.”
Democrats have their own pickup opportunities in November. Their main target in Minnesota is Rep. Jim Hagedorn in the state’s southern First District, which used to be represented by Gov. Tim Walz. Neither Hagedorn nor his DFL challenger, Dan Feehan, faced primary opponents on Tuesday, setting up what will be a November rematch after Hagedorn’s narrow victory over Feehan in 2018.
Democrats also are taking aim at freshman GOP Rep. Pete Stauber in northern Minnesota’s Eighth District, once a DFL stronghold. Their hopes ride on Quinn Nystrom, a diabetes advocate and former Baxter City Council member. Stauber, a former professional hockey player and police officer, defeated nominal opposition in the GOP primary, while Nystrom was unopposed Tuesday.
Democrats nationwide are seeking to expand their majority in the House, where they hold 232 of the 435 seats. Republicans want to close the gap by picking up or holding districts Trump won in 2016. But Trump’s down-ballot impact in congressional races remains uncertain. The president’s approval ratings have dropped as the nation continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy has weakened.
“For Republicans to win back the House, we have to hold onto these seats that Democrats have targeted,” Hagedorn said. He said “left-wingers on the East and West Coast” are pouring money into races like his.
Feehan said this year he’s hearing from voters who are “exhausted from the chaos in Washington, D.C.,” and the lack of leadership during a public health crisis. “There’s this very real feeling that Washington quit on them,” Feehan said.
Tuesday’s primary also sets up a potentially competitive race in November for freshman DFL incumbent Dean Phillips, who represents the historically Republican Third District in the western Twin Cities suburbs. Phillips faced a long-shot Democratic rival Tuesday. The GOP endorsed candidate, former health care executive and Army veteran Kendall Qualls, beat environmental activist and perennial candidate Leslie Davis in the primary.
Two other incumbents seem to have an easy path to re-election: DFL Rep. Betty McCollum bested four relative unknowns in the overwhelmingly Democratic Fourth District, which includes St. Paul. Rep. Tom Emmer easily defeated one GOP primary challenger in the central Minnesota Sixth District, which runs northwest from the Twin Cities. Emmer, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is tasked with maintaining GOP strength in the U.S. House.