Elections 2020 preview: 7th Congressional District

Will Collin Peterson hang on for yet another term?
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Bring Me The News is looking at each of Minnesota's nine congressional races (nine House, one Senate) in the lead-up to Nov. 3.

Today we look at the 7th Congressional District, which is the largest by area in the state and covers almost the entire western side of state along the borders with the Dakotas, comprising a vast 31,796 square miles of Minnesota.

Who's running?

  • Rep. Collin Peterson (Democrat-incumbent)
  • Michelle Fischbach (Republican)
  • Rae Hart Anderson (Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party of Minnesota)
  • Slater Johnson (Legal Marijuana Now Party)

District map

Screen Shot 2020-10-28 at 9.43.38 AM

What happened last time?

Peterson benefited from a Blue wave year as he beat Republican challenger Dave Hughes by a margin of 4.3%, though this margin marked a tightening of the 5.1% he beat Hughes by in 2016.

The race so far

There is intense national interest in this race not least because it's considered the most likely district in Minnesota to flip to Republican, after a period of years that has seen it trend increasingly red.

But Peterson has held on to the seat he has occupied since 1991 despite this, not least because he's considered among the "Blue Dog Democrats" that style themselves as fiscally responsible and more independent from the party. He was one of the only House Democrats to vote against impeaching President Donald Trump at the turn of this year.

This past week he described himself as the "only conservative Democrat left," and one of the major reasons he remains popular is because he wields considerable influence in Congress as the chair of the House Agriculture Committee while representing the ag-heavy 7th District.

As such, his re-election has been heavily backed by the agriculture industry, who fear losing Peterson before he can oversee the next farm bill.

In Fischbach, he's facing arguably his sternest challenge yet given she has some statewide name recognition, having served as a state representative and a senator, most recently serving in District 13 covering an area west of St. Cloud that is actually in the 6th Congressional District.

She became the subject of statewide news in 2018 following the resignation of Al Franken as U.S. Senator, with then Gov. Mark Dayton appointing his Lieutenant Governor, Tina Smith, to fill Franken's seat.

This in turn created a vacuum in the Lt. Gov. position, which Fischbach ascended to as she was then the President of the Minnesota Senate. After a legal dispute over whether she could hold onto her Senate seat while being the lieutenant governor, Fischbach resigned her seat and took up the role under Gov. Dayton.

She then ran as the running mate for former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary, only for Pawlenty to lose out to Jeff Johnson.

Where do candidates stand?

Given Peterson's position and the make-up of the western district, agriculture has played a significant role in the race so far.

Peterson has highlighted his work passing farm bills in 2014 and 2018 – siding with Republicans on several votes in opposition to his Democratic colleagues so as not to jeopardize the passage of the latest one.

In fact, a recent debate between Peterson and Fischbach found them agreeing in several areas including that of farm policy.

Where they different, per Inforum, was the trade war with China that has had a significant impact on the farming industry, particularly those farming soybeans. Peterson criticized President Trump for using tariffs to pressure China, saying that has had a significant impact on not only Minnesota's farmers but also manufacturers.

But Fischbach, who has been endorsed by Trump, defended the president, saying he is "trying to do what he thinks is right to make sure that we get a decent deal from China."

When it comes to healthcare, the Forum notes that neither are fans of the Affordable Care Act, but Peterson says he won't vote to repeal it as it protects preexisting conditions. Fischbach says she supports protections for preexisting conditions, but would vote to repeal the ACA.

Peterson said he voted against the legislation, but because it guarantees coverage for people with preexisting health conditions, he won't vote to repeal the bill, unless there is a better option to replace it.

Of the pro-legal marijauna candidates, Rae Hart Anderson is a former Republican candidate who is very pro-Trump on her Twitter page, and has been identified in articles discussing the Republican Party's alleged efforts to encourage people to run as pro-legalization "spoilers" in close election races in Minnesota.

You can find more about where the candidates stand on their campaign pages:

Rep. Collin Peterson

– Michelle Fischbach

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