WASHINGTON — For most of this campaign cycle, national Republicans have set their sights on just one Democratic-held seat in Minnesota, backing Randy Demmer against two-term Democrat Tim Walz in the southern 1st District. Today, the GOP signalled that it thinks it has another possible takeover opportunity.
The National Republican Congressional Committee elevated 7th District challenger Lee Byberg (who faces Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson) to the first tier of its “Young Guns” program, which identifies emerging GOP candidates across the nation. Demmer is the only other Minnesota Young Gun, and he’s on the top tier.
“The NRCC is committed to working with Lee Byberg as he continues to meet the rigorous goals of the Young Guns program,” said NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions in a statement announcing the move. “Lee is an accomplished, independent leader who will fight to create jobs and rein in government spending. I am confident that we will be successful in our efforts to win this seat and add it to the Republican column in November.”
NRCC officials have declined to discuss their Young Guns methodology in the past, though fundraising is one of the metrics used to determine the status. According to his most recent FEC filing (in mid-July), Byberg had raised $168,000 and spent all but $25,000 of that.
Reports are due to be filed again at the end of the month and the NRCC says Byberg has now raised more than $300,000.
Still, this race will be a very uphill climb. Peterson is well known in his northwest Minnesota district, where he took 72 percent of the vote in 2008 despite John McCain beating Barack Obama there 50 to 47.
Peterson, as of the last filing, had $728,000 cash-on-hand. Every major race ratings agency has Peterson rated as safe, while FiveThirtyEight gave Peterson a 98 percent chance of holding his seat.