An updated look at the Minnesota races:
Governor: Incumbent Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty is not running for re-election. Oddly, despite the fact that Minnesota has not voted Republican in a Presidential race since 1972 (yes, we even voted for Mondale in 1984, though probably mostly out of pity), Minnesota has also not had a Democratic Governor since Rudy Perpich was defeated in 1990. This year is probably the best chance for Democrats to change that.
Caucuses for both parties were held on February 2nd. Straw poll results saw state House Minority Leader Marty Seifert winning 50% of the Republican vote, while state Rep. Tom Emmer took 39%, and five others splitting the rest. On the Democrat side, Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak took 21.8% of the vote, while state House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher had just over 20%, with eight other candidates splitting the rest. Also of note, former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton chose not to participate in the caucuses, although he intends to run in the primary.
The Democrats have better name recognition on their side, although that hasn’t always helped them in the past. Tim Pawlenty was a relative unknown when he was elected in 2002. Whle there is still plenty that could happen in the next few months, I will maintain my original stance, though with minimal certainty. Prediction: DEM GAIN, certainty factor 1/10.
Senate: Neither of the reliable liberal votes – Amy Klobuchar or Acting Senator Al Fraudken – are up for re-election this year.
MN-01: Incumbent Democrat Tim Walz is running for re-election, and has no primary challengers. This is a seat Republicans are targeting, but no strong contenders have yet emerged. Current Republican contenders include Rep. Randy Demmer, longtime congressional aide Jim Hagedorn, military veteran Frank McKinzie, and former gubernatorial candidate Allen Quist. None are considered strong contenders at this point. Walz won by a comfortable margin (30 points) in this southern Minnesota rural district two years ago (which Obama won 51-47), but the voter registration is R+1 and supported Bush in 2000 and 2004. Walz voted against ObamaCare in November, but for the most part has voted with Pelosi on everything else. This will be a closer race than in 2008, but Walz is fairly popular and the Republican field is not strong. Prediction: DEM HOLD, certainty factor 7/10.
MN-02: Incumbent Republican John Kline is running for re-election, and has no serious primary challengers. Democrat contenders include former state Rep. Shelley Madore and salesman Dan Powers. Madore will likely win the primary, but she brings nothing to the table in this conservative district. As I live in both Kline’s district as well as Madore’s former state district, I know of what I speak here. Prediction: GOP HOLD, certainty factor 10/10.
MN-03: Incumbent Republican Erik Paulsen is running for re-election, and has no primary challengers. Democrat challengers include physician Maureen Hackett and PTA president Jim Meffert-Nelson. Neither challenger poses any reason for Paulsen to worry. Prediction: GOP HOLD, certainty factor 10/10.
MN-04: Incumbent Democrat Betty McCollum is running for re-election, and has no primary challengers. No Republicans have announced for this race. Prediction: DEM HOLD, certainty factor 10/10.
MN-05: Incumbent Democrat Keith Ellison is running for re-election, and has no primary challengers. No Republicans have announced for this race. Ellison has had some ethics issues, but with no serious opposition and a D+23 PVI should still breeze through, thus illustrating a lot about what is wrong with our political system today. Prediction: DEM HOLD, certainty factor 10/10.
MN-06: This is clearly the main event. Incumbent Republican Michele Bachmann is running for re-election. Attorney Chris Johnston is challenging her in the primary, but is no threat. Democrat contenders include State Sen. Tarryl Clark and former U of MN regent Maureen Reed. Clark is the likely primary winner. Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that Bachmann is the top target for Democrats this year, and clearly wants very badly to see the conservative Bachmann gone. Bachmann has had three close races in 2004-2008 against fairly weak challengers, but she is becoming increasingly popular both locally and nationally. Sorry, Ms. Speaker, but Michele Bachmann isn’t going anywhere. Prediction: GOP HOLD, certainty factor 8/10.
MN-07: Incumbent Democrat Collin Peterson is running for re-election, and has no primary challengers. Republican challengers include 2008 nominee Glen Menze, psychiatrist Karen Nelson, Melva Larson and business executive Lee Byberg. Despite the R+5 PVI, Peterson won 72% of the vote in the last election and doesn’t appear to be in any trouble at this point. Prediction: DEM HOLD, certainty factor 10/10.
MN-08: Incumbent Democrat James Oberstar is running for re-election, and has no primary challengers. Construction executive Michael Cummins (the 2008 nominee) is the only announced Republican. This is a safe Democratic district in the northern part of the state. Prediction: DEM HOLD, certainty factor 10/10.