US House Races/Minnesota

Report by Bruce Driver from Indivisible North Boulder.

Minnesota’s Democratic party is the “Democratic, Farmers and Labor Party,” DFL for short.

Minnesota District 1:

Candidates are Dan Feehan (DFL) and Jim Hagedorn (R). This is an open district this year.   

Before throwing his hat into the ring for District 1 Rep, Feehan was a captain in the US Army from 2005-2009, with two deployments to Iraq, a White House Fellow and then a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, DOD.   He has a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown and a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard. From his website, which is rather spare: (1) Healthcare: He supports universal health coverage, he wants build on successes of Obamacare and to expand Medicare coverage to age 55.   (2) Rural health: He believes that bettering rural health takes a special effort, including training providers for rural areas and a focus on opioids. (3) National Security: Congress needs to reassert its authority. (4) Agriculture, an economic mainstay of this district, is undergoing changes which need attention through a new Farm Bill that should also address the environmental impacts of farming.   (5) Education and workforce development: strengthen early childhood education; expose K-12 students to diverse career options; and cap student-loan interest rates and expand loan forgiveness for taking certain jobs. Feehan had $733,000 in cash on hand in late July. By sector, his major contributors include: Securities and Investment; Retired; Business Services; Democratic/Liberal; and Education.

Hagedorn has been a congressional staffer for former MN Rep. Strangeland and held two offices in the Dept. of the Treasury that involved interaction with Congress.   He has a B.A. in Government and Politics from George Mason U. His father represented this district. The present Hagedorn has run twice for the seat he seeks now, losing both times, although he came within one point of beating the Democratic incumbent in Trump-wave 2016.   His website is vague and spare on the issues, and I’ve resorted to secondary sources to supplement. He appears to have four priorities: (1) Economy: IRS and EPA are choking life out of small business; corporate taxes are too high; IR Code is too long; repeal and replace Obamacare; all-of-the-above energy policy; opposes carbon tax; wants estate tax repealed.  (2) Agriculture: He supports farmers and rural southern Minnesotans. (Boy, that’s a tough stance.) (3) Address Islamic terrorism by supporting stable governments in the Middle East and Africa; secure borders; take a time-out on resettlements; (4) Rural Values: he’s pro-life and for freedom of religion and a big fan of the Second Amendment. He had $337,000 in cash on hand in late July.   By sector his major contributors are Retired; Leadership PACS; TV/Music/Movies; Agricultural services/products; and General contractors.

Description of District: This district stretches across southern MN from the borders with South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin.  It is said to be 63% urban and includes the cities of Rochester, Mankato and Winona. It is 90% White, 3% Black, 3% Asian and 10% Hispanic (another +100% district—who in the Census Bureau is compiling these numbers? Not just a rounding error).  Cook gives the district an R+5 but says it is a “toss-up” in 2018 Trump crushed Hillary in 2016 by 15 points. Yet, while the district used to be solid R, it has oscillated between R and DFL in its US House of Reps elections for the last ten years.   The current Rep. is DFL. Its HMI is $60,000, neither wealthy nor poor.

Summary: Feehan has occupied positions in DC at the highest level of government for several years and is an intelligent, careful and articulate progressive, although he needs to explain his positions on other issues.   He reminds me of Elissa Slotkin running in Michigan District 8. Hagedorn seems weak, with very weak issues discussions, even though this is his third time running in this district. Yes, this is a conservative place, but a DFLer (Tim Walz, now running for MN Governor) has represented it since 2008.   Feehan has nearly double Hagedorn’s cash at this point, but you can be sure that national Rs will pour money into this race. Feehan needs our support.

Minnesota District 2:

Candidates are Jason Lewis (incumbent R) and Angie Craig (DFL).

Lewis is a one-term incumbent.  Until elected, he was a radio and TV talk-show host in Minneapolis.   He has a B.A. in Education/Business from the University of Northern Iowa and a Masters in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Denver.  He is well-known for some of his statements, such as: women are liberal because they vote on emotion; they don’t understand money; those of them who vote based on access to birth control have no cognitive function; he’d like to call some of them “sluts,” but it is no longer politically correct.   He has substituted for Rush Limbaugh on his show. His votes include: “yes” that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the U.S. economy; “yes” on the Balanced Budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution and “yes” for the tax-cut and Omnibus spending bills that add up to $3 trillion to the national debt; “yes’ on concealed-carry reciprocity; ‘no” on disaster relief for Puerto Rico; “yes” on denying federal funds to sanctuary cities; “yes” on the harsh Goodlatte immigration bill; “yes” on delaying federal ozone standards and “yes” on overriding Obama’s stream protection rule.   His website is a hard-right screed: He complains that the wealthy pay most federal taxes; he believes that we should do nothing on immigration until the border is secure; he says that doubling earnings subject to FICA would threaten economic growth; he is pro-life and contends that the states must be allowed to do what they want on abortion; spending money on light rail and alternatives to highways is a waste of money; and he is strongly against LGBTQ rights, saying that gays are “rapists.” In short, he is a hard-right, Limbaugh-clone blowhard. Name-recognition may have helped him in 2016.  He had $1.4 million in cash on hand in late July. By sector, his major contributors include Leadership PACs; Retireds; Insurance; Air transport and Real Estate.

Angie Craig is an executive at St. Jude’s Medical Center in Minneapolis and former Chair of Twin Cities Go Red Campaign of the American Heart Association.   This is her second run at District 2 against Lewis. She lost by less than two points in 2016. From her website: (1) Economy: She wants to make capital more accessible to small business, simplify regulations and taxes for them and give larger tax deductions for start-ups; she wants to incentivize companies to repatriate more capital and have companies get tax credits for hiring Americans.  (2) Healthcare: Fix Obamacare; implement a federal re-insurance program; work toward universal coverage choosing from among many good ideas; focus on the Opioid epidemic. (3) Education: She wants to take the $16 billion in annual carried interest benefits available to hedge-funders and give it to the states to raise teacher pay; she supports making the first two-years of post-secondary education free.   (4) Environment: Climate change is real; she supports a carbon fee and dividend. (5) Agriculture: She wants to help farmers export to new markets. (6) Money in Politics: End Citizens United and adopt non-disclosure of dark money; (7) Women and LGBTQ rights: She is pro-choice, is a big supporter of Planned Parenthood and getting more women into STEM; she supports LGBTQ rights. Her website includes a compelling story of the challenges she had, as a Lesbian, in adopting her first son.  (8) Guns: She says she is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and that that is consistent with her position that assault weapons should be banned. I’d say she is a careful progressive, but conservative on the economy. She had $1.7 million in cash on hand in late July. By sector, her major contributors are Securities and Investment; Retireds; Democratic/Liberal orgs; Women’s issues orgs; and Leadership PACs.

Description of District: This district includes Minneapolis metro area suburbs south of the city and extends East to the Wisconsin border.  It also contains some manufacturing and agriculture. Carleton and St. Olaf colleges are located here. It has an HMI of $80,000, making it a wealthy district.  It is said to be 87% urban and is 84% White, 5% Black, 5% Asian and 6% Hispanic. Trump beat Hillary by only 2 points in 2016. Cook gives it a PVI of R+2 but says this race is a “toss-up.”  However, Republicans have represented the district in the US House since 2000.

Summary: Craig should be able to beat Lewis in this district, which like other districts on the outskirts of major US cities, is changing demographically in her favor.  She looks to have enough money so far, and her candidacy has attracted national interest and support. Lewis seems out of tune with the district. It would be good to kick Lewis out of Congress and replace him with Craig, so support her if you can.

Minnesota District 3:

Candidates are Erik Paulsen (incumbent R) and Dean Phillips (DFL).

Paulsen is a popular five-term incumbent.   He has a B.A. from St. Olaf’s College in Mathematics and was a seven-term Member of the MN House of Representatives, where he rose to be Majority Leader.   He worked for former Representative Jim Ramstad, then went to work for Target and the Cable Value Network. He has voted with Trump 98% of the time. Like most Republicans, he supports a Balanced Budget amendment to the Constitution while hypocritically voting for the Omnibus spending and tax cut bills.  He voted for the anti-environmental overrides of Obama regulations, for the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, against Congress having access to Trump’s tax returns, for concealed-carry reciprocity, for the harsh Goodlatte immigration bill and for withholding federal revenues from sanctuary jurisdictions.  He proposes a healthcare program that goes against Obamacare, although he does not mention the ACA by name. The issues discussion on his website is pretty bland and general. Somewhat surprisingly, he opposes the Wall and he favors decent treatment of DACA recipients, but he has a “A” rating from the NRA, even while favoring banning bump stocks and implementing gun-violence restraining orders.   Paulsen seems a hard-core Trumpist except on immigration. Thus, he should be vulnerable in 2018, but he is well-entrenched, and he had $2.7 million (!) in cash on hand in late July. It will take a clever and well-financed DFL’r to beat him. By sector, his major contributors include Leadership PACS, Insurance, Pharma, Health providers and Securities an Investment.

Phillips is a businessman from a wealthy family who also is Board Chair of his two family charitable foundations.   He and his partners developed Talenti Gelato (yum!), in which his father had invested, into a nationwide product.  Phillips graduated from Brown and also has an MBA from the University of Minnesota. From his web-page: (1) Campaign Finance Reform: He will not accept PAC money (may not need to); wants to pass the Disclose Act re “dark money;” and wants to bar political appointees in the federal government from lobbying for 5 years.  (2) Healthcare: He wants to fix and improve Obamacare; wants Medicare for All; wants to negotiate with Pharma on behalf of all Americans (not just Medicare recipients). (3) Education: Maybe his most creative proposal is to establish a Retired Persons Education Corps, otherwise his proposals are fairly standard progressive ideas, having to do with early childhood learning and providing more counselors and mental health pros in the schools.  (4) E&E: He supports a carbon fee and dividend and an extension of solar and wind tax credits. (5) Guns: He wants to reinstate the assault weapons ban and close loopholes on background checks. (6) Women’s rights: Equal pay for equal work and paid family leave. He is a solid progressive, with a couple more issues to flesh out (LGBTQ, national defense/foreign policy). He had $836,000 in cash on hand in late July. By sector, his largest contributors are: Retired; Lawyers/Law firms; Real Estate, Securities and Investment; and Business Services.

Description of District This is a geographically small district, mainly suburbs to the West and South of Minneapolis.   It ranges from blue-collar Brooklyn Park to wealthy Edina, Minnetonka and Wayzata. Republicans have held this seat since 1961, but Hillary beat Trump here by 10 points.  It is said to be 96% urban and 80% White, 8% Black, 7% Asian and 5% Hispanic. Its HMI is $85,000, making it the most wealthy district in the state. The incumbent R has slaughtered his DFL opponents by wide margins since he first ran for the House in 2008.  Cook gives it a PVI of R+2 but rates this race a “toss-up.”

Summary: Phillips looks like the kind of candidate who can beat Paulsen.   He seems to have the money (if he’s willing to use it), professional experience, following, personality and education to do so in an otherwise blue district in a year in which Trump is less popular.   This is one to watch, a definite pick-up opportunity, unless Phillips stumbles in his first run for Congress, has less money than seems apparent or Paulsen is even more skilled than he appears to be.

Minnesota District 7:

Candidates here are Collin Peterson (incumbent DFL) and Dave Hughes (R). With one exception this is the only district I describe in which the incumbent is not a Republican.   The exception is in District 7 in California where Ami Bera (D) is an incumbent.  

After service as a Minnesota state Senator for ten years, Peterson ran for election from District 7 and has now served 13 terms in Congress.   Oddity: He is a member of 81(!) House caucuses, from the Soybean to the Oral Health caucus.  He is a CPA and owns his own accounting business, having obtained his Accounting degree from Minnesota State U. at Moorhead.   He says that his priority issues are farmers/small business, tax policy and conservation. Here’s how he voted/did not vote on some issues in the present Congress: he did not vote on the carbon tax resolution; he voted “no” on the harsh Goodlatte immigration bill; he voted for the Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution but voted “no” on both the tax-cut and Omnibus spending bills; he voted “no” on the repeal/replace bill for Obamacare; he voted for concealed-carry reciprocity, for defunding of sanctuary cities and for overriding Obama’s stream protection rule.  He informed Vote Smart that: he is pro-life; we should regulate the indirect political contributions of corporations; we should lower taxes to encourage economic growth; there should be greater local control of education; he does not support federal regulation of GHGs until it is bi-partisan; he is pro-Wall; he supports the Dreamers; he generally does not support gun-control legislation, excepting red-flag provisions. In my view he is a smart politician, not exactly a “progressive,” but about the best you can expect from this district. He had $1.3 million in cash on hand in late July.   By sector, his major contributors are: Crop Production; Agricultural services; Securities and Investment; Dairy; and Food Processing.

Hughes is a pilot, having served in the USAF then as a pilot/instructor for General Atomics.  He has a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from San Diego State U. and an M.S. in the same subject from Cal-State Long-Beach.  This is his second run at Peterson. There’s not much on the issues on his web-page: he says he opposes sanctuary cities and wants to eliminate the estate tax.   He informed Vote Smart that: he is pro-life; that we must balance the federal budget and pay off the national debt, but do not cut Defense; he wants to eliminate all federal restrictions on campaign contributions; the federal corporate income tax should be abolished; the Department of Education should be abolished; we should leave all forms of energy production to the market; regulation of GHGs should be left to the states; we should repeal all forms of regulation of guns that are inconsistent with the Second Amendment, which he thinks is unambiguous; Obamacare should be repealed and states should work out healthcare issues with the private sector; he is pro-Wall; and he wants to partner with Trump to implement his America First agenda as “quickly and completely as possible.”   He is about as deeply conservative on the issues as any candidate I’ve reviewed for these reports. As of late July, however, he had only $6,000 cash on hand. By sector his major contributors are: Electric Manufacturing and Equipment; Retired; Miscellaneous Manufacturing and Distribution; General Contractors; and Real Estate.

Description of the District: This is roughly the western third of Minnesota bordering Canada, Iowa and both Dakotas, is deeply conservative and its economy centers around agriculture.  Moorhead is its largest city, and the district is just over the border from Fargo, N.D. It is about two-thirds rural and is 92% White, 1% Black, 1% Asian, 4% Hispanic and 3% Native American.  Its HMI is $54,000, putting it in the poorer half of US districts. It has a PVI of R+12, and Trump beat Hillary by 31 points in 2016, but Cook says that it is “likely D” this fall. How can this be?   Because Collin Peterson (DFL) has represented the district since 1990, is conservative, entrenched, well-known, popular and well-funded. In the past he has won his races by large margins, but his margin of victory has shrunk markedly in the last couple of races.   His opponent this fall is the same guy who came within 5 points of beating him in 2016.

Summary: It would be hard to think that anyone with Hughes’ positions on the issues could get elected anywhere, but this is MN District 07, perhaps as conservative a district as there is in the U.S. outside the deep South, and he almost beat Peterson two years ago.   This year may be easier for Peterson as the bloom is off the rose for Trump, maybe even in this district. But this is a race to watch. It would be a shame to have Hughes in the House, although he would likely be ineffective if he got there.

Minnesota District 08:

The candidates are Joe Radinovich (DFL) and Pete Stauber (R). This is an open district this fall.  The DFL incumbent is retiring at the end of this Congress.  

Radinovich, another 30-something, says he is a long-distance track and field coach, but he is also a political animal: He has been a one-term Member of the MN House of Reps., national organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees, was the current Rep.’s campaign manager and ran the campaign for the current Minneapolis Mayor.   He attended MacAlester College but apparently did not graduate. He is pro-choice; he supports government support of renewable resources and federal regulation of GHGs. He is against repealing Obamacare, opposes Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, wants Medicare for All, believing that healthcare is a right not a privilege, is a fan of labor unions, will not accept donations from corporate PACs, and wants bankruptcy-proof plans for reclamation of mining operations.   He seems a progressive. He has a few unpaid parking tickets, which have become an issue in this campaign. He had $60,000 in cash on hand in late July. By sector, his major contributors include Real Estate; Retired; Lawyers/Law firms; and Industrial Unions.

Stauber has been an Area Commander in Duluth’s Police Department for 22 years, a City of Hermantown Council member and presently is a member of the St. Louis County Commission.   He has also been the President of the Law Enforcement Labor Service Union. He is a locally well-known hockey player, having captained the Lake Superior State U. team to the national championship and then played for the Detroit Red Wings.   He has a Criminal Justice from Lake Superior. His website is very thin on the issues. He says he’ll fight any attempt to weaken the Second Amendment, is pro-life, wants patient-driven healthcare reform, supports mining and tax reform and legal immigration.  I have the sense that he does not know his positions on a number of federal issues. He is on the Board of the United Day Activities Center, serving special-needs people. He had $479,000 in cash on hand in late July, much more than Radinovich. Again by sector, his major contributors include: Retired; Leadership PACs; General contractors; Lawyers/Law Firms; and TV/Movies/Music.

Description of District: This is a large district, covering the whole of NE Minnesota and bordering Canada, Wisconsin and Lake Superior.   An iron ore mining center, Duluth is its largest city, with shipping, mining, agriculture and tourism the district’s economic mainstays.     Its PVI is R+4, and it is 93% White, 1% Black, 1% Asian, 2% Asian and 3% Native American. After voting for Kerry and Obama, the district voted for Trump by 15 points in 2016.   It is one of these districts where its cohort of white blue-collar voters bought Trump’s message. However, Cook says it is “toss-up” in 2018. Its HMI is $54,000, placing it in the poorer half of US districts.    Significant issues are loss of jobs in the mining industry as well as clean-up of past mining operations.

Summary: Stauber may be an attractive candidate for this district—somewhat well-known, policeman and labor union leader.   He is much older than Radinovich, but he does not have Radinovich’s experience at a higher level of politics. If Stauber’s handlers can publicize him in the district, he may be hard to beat.   Radinovich needs our support.