Cook Report to declare Peterson in toss up race
The Cook Political Report will declare today that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is in a “toss up” race to retain to his House seat in 2020, The Hagstrom Report has learned.
Peterson has served 15 terms and escaped serious GOP challengers, but the decision of former Republican Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach to run against him “moves MN-07 from ‘Lean Democratic’ to ’Toss Up,’” David Wasserman, the Cook Report House analyst, will announce., according to an advance copy of Cook’s Friday report.
“In an era defined by sky-high polarization and straight-ticket voting, Peterson is an extreme outlier,” Wasserman writes.
“No one else in the House represents a seat where the opposite party’s presidential candidate received more than 55% of the vote in 2016, but Peterson — first elected in 1990 — has managed to defy political gravity a sprawling, rural district that voted for President Trump by a landslide 61%t to 31%.”
Peterson’s second term as House Agriculture Committee chairman will help him, but “there are signs Peterson’s grasp on the 7th CD (Congressional District) has been gradually slipping.”
“As rural Minnesota has drifted towards the GOP, Peterson’s margin of victory has shrunk in each of his past three elections. In 2016, he defeated Air Force veteran Dave Hughes by just 53% to 47% despite outspending Hughes $1.2 million to $19,000. In 2018, Peterson won a rematch by an even narrower 52% to 48%.”
Fischbach is married to the head of Minnesota’s largest pro-life group, and will have access to a large fundraising network of social conservatives.
But Democrats are likely to portray her as a career politician, the report says. She grew up in suburban St. Paul and holds a law degree, was elected to the state Senate from the St. Cloud area in 1996, eventually rising to Senate president.
In 2018, she briefly rose to lieutenant governor when Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to the Senate, “creating awkward bedfellows,” according to the report. She also ran on a ticket in 2018 with Tim Pawlenty, who lost his comeback bid for governor in the GOP primary.
So far Peterson has signaled he is running for election, but Wasserman still says “the biggest question is whether Peterson [who is 75] decides to run again in 2020.”
Peterson’s chairmanship is considered extremely valuable to agricultural interests, particularly sugar growers, and Wasserman notes that “American Crystal Sugar, a highly influential farmer-owned sugar cooperative based in the Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota, has already created and funded a $300,000 SuperPAC, the Committee for Stronger Rural Committees, with the sole mission of reelecting Peterson.”