End of an era: Collin Peterson defeated in Seventh District race

Collin Peterson could hold off the red wave in Minnesota’s Seventh District for only so long. After winning some tight elections, including a 15th term in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, the 76-year-old Democrat and strong ally for farmers, lost his bid for a 16th term on Tuesday.

Michelle Fischbach, a Republican with strong backing from the GOP and President Donald Trump, defeated Peterson during the November election by nearly 14 points.

“I am honored to have the outpouring of support from Minnesota families across #mn07. I am grateful for the backing and am excited to hit the ground running in Washington to work on behalf of MN,” Fischbach tweeted.

Michelle Fischbach (left) defeated longtime Rep. Collin Peterson, becoming the first Republican to defeat Peterson in 30 years.

Fischbach’s victory not only means that the Seventh District, which covers most of western and northwestern Minnesota, will have a new Representative for the first time since 1990, it means that there will be a new chair of the House Agriculture Committee. Representing one of top ag-producing regions in the country, Peterson presided over the committee from 2007 to 2011 and again in 2019 and 2020.

Peterson carved out a reputation as one of the last of the moderate, “Blue Dog” Democrats, which certainly helped him maintain his seat in recent elections as his district became more and more conservative. He prided himself on his centrist, bipartisan record, including voting against impeaching President Trump in January.

“I’d like to thank the people of the Seventh District for their support over the years,” Peterson said in a statement. “Serving them in Washington, D.C., has been a great honor, and I respect their decision to move in a different direction. We ran a strong and positive campaign, but with the President winning this district by 30 points again, and the millions in outside money that was spent to attack me, the partisan tilt of this district was just too much to overcome.”

Fischbach, who captured 53% of the vote, is a former Minnesota lieutenant governor and state senator from Paynesville. Her victory evened Minnesota’s congressional delegation at four Republicans and four Democrats, with the incumbents winning in the other seven districts.

Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Vice President Mike Skaug said Peterson’s leadership on the Ag Committee will be sorely missed.

“Collin Peterson has been a friend and supporter of farmers in Washington for 30 years,” said Skaug, who farms in Polk County in the Seventh District and also serves as chair of MSGA’s advocacy team. “We’re so grateful for the work he’s done on numerous farm bills and other initiatives on behalf of ag producers. We wish him all the best, and we are hopeful to build a relationship Michelle Fischbach and look forward to working with the other representatives who are returning to Congress.”

Here’s a look at Minnesota’s other agriculture-heavy districts:

First District: Republican Jim Hagedorn was elected to a second term, fending off familiar Democratic challenger Dan Feehan in a hotly contested and often-times negative campaign to represent southern Minnesota.

“I look forward to continuing to fight on behalf of our southern Minnesota values and rural way of life,” Hagedorn said in a statement.

Hagedorn, a member of the House Ag Committee, defeated Feehan by just 1,300 votes in 2018 when they competed for the open seat previously held by Gov. Tim Walz, but was able to expand that advantage to more than 10,000 votes this year. A third-party candidate drew nearly 20,000 votes (nearly 6 percent).

Second District: Democrat Angie Craig eked by Republican Tyler Kistner to win a second term representing the area south and southeast of the Metro Area. Craig, who sits on the House Ag Committee and considers Peterson a mentor in that role, was a big booster of biodiesel during her first term, sponsoring an expansion of the biodiesel tax credit and joining the bipartisan Congressional Biofuels Caucus.

The Second District race was nearly delayed to a special election due to the death of third-party candidate Adam Weeks in the weeks prior to the election. However, it went on as scheduled after a ruling by a federal judge, and Craig won by a little more than 9,000 votes.

Sixth District: Tom Emmer won a fourth term, easily defeating Democratic challenger Tawnja Zahradka in a heavily Republican district located north and west of the Twin Cities, stretching to St. Cloud. Emmer garnered nearly two-thirds of the vote.

“It’s more important than ever that we work to bring our Midwest Values to Washington and build a better future for Minnesota and our nation,” Emmer said in a statement. Emmer also likely earned himself another term as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee after GOP’s flipped several House seats.  

Other districts: Other representatives returning to Washington, D.C. for the 117th Congress on Jan. 3, 2021 include:

  • Pete Stauber cruised to a second term in the Minnesota’s Eight District, becoming the first Republican to win the district in consecutive elections;
  • Democrat Dean Phillips, who was reelected to serve the Third District in the Minneapolis suburbs;
  • Becky McCollum won an 11th term in Congress, where she’ll represent the Fourth District;
  • Ilhan Omar, a frequent target of President Trump’s throughout the campaign, easily won reelection in Minnesota’s Fifth District.

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