Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

A Minnesota Challenger Emerges; Texas House Update

In House on December 6, 2013 at 11:06 am

Yesterday, national and Minnesota Republicans recruited an individual who has the potential of becoming a strong and interesting challenger to the state’s western district 12-term incumbent, Rep. Collin Peterson (D).

State Sen. Torrey Westrom (R) was first elected to the legislature in 1996, moving from the House to the Senate in 2012 after chairing two committees. Westrom is native to the district, growing up on a dairy farm, and tragically lost his eyesight in an agriculture-related accident when he was 14 years old. Despite his disability, Sen. Westrom became a lawyer, married, is father to three children, and has won nine state legislative elections.

The potential race against Rep. Peterson – and retirement rumors continue to swirl around the 69-year old congressman – can become competitive. One of only eight seats in the country to vote for Mitt Romney (53.9 percent) and elect a Democrat to the House, MN-7 ranks as the fourth-most Republican seat to be represented by a member of the opposite party.

Though Peterson has cruised to re-election for a number of terms, his road to Congress was not an easy one. He was originally elected in 1990 on his fourth try for the House, once even losing in the Democratic primary. After ousting then-incumbent Arlan Stangeland (R) with 54 percent of the vote in ’90, Peterson was re-elected with victory margins of only 50-49 percent, and 51-49 percent in his succeeding campaigns. It was not until 1996 that he won in a landslide and has not been seriously challenged since.

Despite saying earlier this year that he is “90 percent sure” he will run again, Rep. Peterson is still mentioned as a retirement possibility. The fact that he has only $227,000 in his campaign account and 75 percent of his campaign receipts come from PACs suggests a lack of political preparedness, which may be foretelling of a retirement decision.

The 7th Congressional District of Minnesota covers nearly all of the state’s western region, from Canada to just north of the Iowa border, and is one of the most agriculturally centered districts in the country.

Texas

Candidate filing closes in the Lone Star State on Monday, but already all 36 of the state’s US House incumbents have submitted their re-election documents. So, as in Illinois – the other state with a March 2014 primary – none of the combined 54 House incumbents are retiring in those two states. Therefore, we will have no open seat campaigns in either place, but Illinois will have several competitive challenger races.

The only Texas general election battle could occur in the 23rd District that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, where freshman incumbent Pete Gallego (D) will defend his position against possibly the man he unseated in 2012, former Rep. Quico Canseco (R).

Louisiana Correction

Yesterday, our update indicated that state Rep. Paul Hollis (R) had joined state Sen. Elbert Guillory (R) in publicly declining to run for the Senate next year. The statement is incorrect. Hollis is still a potential Senate candidate. It is state Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R) who said he will not be running statewide. We apologize for the reporting error.

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