Those retirement rumors started popping up four elections ago. But U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who's now 72, keeps brushing them off and voters in western Minnesota keep sending him back to Washington.
According to Roll Call Peterson says he's heading out on the campaign trail for a 15th time. "Yeah, I'm running. I've got 700 grand in the bank," he told them this week.
Political analysts have theorized that if Peterson – a conservative-leaning Democrat – did not run in next year's election, Minnesota's seventh district would likely flip to the Republican column. The website Daily Kos notes that President Trump doubled Hillary Clinton's total in the district last fall, 62-31 percent.
Peterson's district extends from the Canadian border almost all the way to Iowa. (There's a map of it here.) That's a lot of land – and most of it's farmland.
Peterson is the ranking Democrat on the House agriculture committee. At least one analyst thinks his farm focus, combined with his willingness to be a political maverick, is what's kept Peterson commuting to Washington from a largely Republican district.
"He has, to the extent he's needed to, protected himself by voting against the party often and really focusing on agriculture issues," U of M political scientist Kathryn Pearson told Forum News Service.
Peterson's victory margin in 2016 was narrower than most of his previous races. He defeated retired Air Force officer Dave Hughes of Karlstad, 52 to 47 percent.
Hughes is challenging Peterson again, and so is state Rep. Tim Miller of Prinsburg. More candidates could still emerge, since the election is more than 18 months away.