Opinion editor's note: Editorial endorsements represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom. The board bases its endorsement decisions on candidate interviews and other reporting.
Minnesota's Second Congressional District has changed shape since the last election. Its suburban-to-rural arrow used to point southeast from the southern metro (or vice versa, if rural-to-suburban is your preferred framing), roughly between Interstate 35 and the Mississippi River. Following redistricting, the Second District lost its southeastern chunk and added a southwestern one between I-35 and the Minnesota River.
But the district's politics — divided, but moderate on balance — are largely the same.
The candidates vying to represent the district in the U.S. House — Republican challenger Tyler Kistner, 35, and Democratic incumbent Rep. Angie Craig, 50, both of Prior Lake — are the same as well. In addition, for the second straight campaign season, the district has seen the untimely death of a third-party candidate. Paula Overby of the Legal Marijuana Now Party died in early October, and her name remains on the ballot. The death of that party's candidate Adam Weeks not long before the election in 2020 prompted a legal battle over whether the vote should be delayed. Ultimately it was not, and Weeks received nearly 6% support in a race decided by about 2 percentage points.
The Star Tribune Editorial Board recommends that voters choose this year as they did in 2020 to return Craig to Washington. It would be her third term.
We first endorsed Craig, a former health care executive, six years ago during her initial run for Congress, calling her a fiscal moderate and social progressive with an eye toward pragmatism and bipartisanship. She lost that year to radio personality Jason Lewis but beat him in a rematch in 2018, and she's performed as we hoped. The Editorial Board considers her to be one of the most effective members of the state's congressional delegation.
She's willing to push back against her party when she senses it's being counterproductive. An example she gives is her behind-the-scenes resistance to eliminating the provision of the tax code that allows for resetting the cost basis of an inheritance to its market value at the time of bequest. This limits future capital gains taxes. Removing the provision would affect the generational transfer of small farms, of which the Second District has many.
In a video interview with the Editorial Board, Craig conveyed knowledge of her district, an awareness of nuance in government work, a command of how the House functions, and an interest in taking on dry but valuable subjects — for example, health care reinsurance programs that can keep premiums more manageable. Her expertise in health care has been a particular strength and has led, among other things, to the provision of the Inflation Reduction act that caps out-of-pocket insulin costs and the patch to the Affordable Care Act that removed a coverage impediment for families.
That basic political and intellectual competence is ever more important in a nation that seems bent, in some cases, on electing leaders who play to its lowest instincts.
Although TV ads and other campaign messaging try to persuade otherwise, the Second District is fortunate to have two decent people as candidates. Much will come down to ideology in a region with a close balance of Republicans, Democrats and independents. The outcome could be significant in determining control of the House, and the campaign has drawn a surplus of outside dollars. No Second District constituent can afford to sit this one out.
Kistner, who serves in the Marine Corps Reserve after nine years of active duty and is a growth and development consultant, positions himself as an advocate of everyday people and businesses in their struggles to get by. As challengers do, he ties his competitor directly to those voters' fears and frustrations, in this case with the economic policies of the Biden administration.
Astute voters, however, know that economic circumstances — while affected by policy decisions — are always less under politicians' control than politicians care to admit. Further, in debate (tinyurl.com/debate-cd2) and on his campaign website, Kistner has leaned heavily on Republican generalities. This may be a function of not yet having served in an elected role, but it leaves potential supporters betting on the come.
We would have liked to hear more from Kistner about policy specifics and his prospects for bipartisanship, but his campaign politely declined to meet with the Editorial Board.
Earlier we mentioned ideology. It's doubly heightened this year — by the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the nationwide right to abortion under Roe v. Wade, and by the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol and dismissal by many Republicans of election results.
Craig notes that she's already voted twice to codify abortion rights as they existed under Roe. She believes that stance is shared by a majority of voters in the district. Kistner says that he's prolife while supporting exceptions for rape, incest and health of the mother, and that the issue should be left to the states. The candidates quibble over who said what when, but their positions should be clear enough to voters.
As to faith in elections, only one party threatens the reliable transfer of power, and it's Kistner's. In a recent debate, he couldn't bring himself to say unequivocally that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential vote. That's a problem. He did say he'd abide by this year's district results, which is the minimum he could do.
Editorial Board members are David Banks, Jill Burcum, Scott Gillespie, Denise Johnson, Patricia Lopez, John Rash and D.J. Tice. Star Tribune Opinion staff members Maggie Kelly and Elena Neuzil also contribute, and Star Tribune Publisher and CEO Michael J. Klingensmith serves as an adviser to the board.