Minnesota: Two House Races Getting Hotter
After serving as one of the hotbeds of House races over the past decade, Minnesota seemed headed for a ho-hum election in 2006. But events over the past ten days have put two seats on the map -- the open 6th District and Rep. Jim Oberstar's 8th District.
National Democrats quickly sought to portray Bachmann as too extreme for the district. "Most Minnesotans wish Michelle Bachmann was hiding in the bushes when she was instead voting against lower gas prices and a higher minimum wage," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Communications Director Bill Burton. "Michelle Bachmann's singular focus on her own extremist agenda renders her unqualified to serve Minnesotans in Congress."
Bachmann has played a leading role in a number of hot-button social issues over the past few years and is one of the leading voices in favor of a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. During her speech at the state GOP convention, Bachmann called herself a "woman on a mission" and compared the Democrats' economic policy to "totalitarianism."
Democrats will pick their nominee at an endorsement convention this weekend. Former Blaine Mayor Elwyn Tinklenberg has been in the race for the better part of the last year, while 2004 6th District nominee Patty Wetterling dropped out of the Senate race and jumped into the House contest in late January. Wetterling is clearly the more liberal of the two candidates, an ideological positioning that should maker the favorite among the left-leaning attendees of the convention. Tinklenberg is anti-abortion and has painted himself as the more electable Democrat in a district that gave President Bush a 15-point victory in 2004.
Carl Forti, the communications director at the National Republican Congressional Committee, said 6th district voters "recognized [Wetterling's] true liberal nature when she lost the race in '04, and nothing has changed." Last cycle, Wetterling, a nationally known child safety advocate, lost by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin to Rep. Mark Kennedy (R). Kennedy is seeking the open seat being vacated by Sen. Mark Dayton (D) this fall.
To the north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul-based 6th, lies the vast 8th District -- held by Democrat Jim Oberstar since 1974. Republicans have rarely challenged the long-serving Democrat; his lowest winning percent in his 16 terms came in 1992 when he won with 59 percent.
But Republicans have reason for hope this cycle as former Sen. Rod Grams (R) has decided to enter the race and won the formal endorsement of the party over the weekend. Grams, who held the 6th District for one term before being elected to the Senate in 1994, now lives on a farm within the confines of the 8th.
Since his loss to Dayton in 2000, Grams has been itching for a return to Congress. He ran an abbreviated primary campaign for the Senate against Kennedy in 2005 before bowing out in the face of widespread party support for the congressman. While Grams ensures a stiffer challenge than usual for Oberstar, he is a an underdog in the fall. Oberstar ended March with $350,000 in the bank; Grams had a negative $2,500 cash balance in his Senate account.
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