WASHINGTON — For years, Republicans have wondered who they might be able to find to finally beat Collin Peterson. Many thought they had their man in Lee Byberg last year, before he wound up losing by 18 percentage points in what was a very Republican year.
Five months after that election, Byberg says he’s definitely running again. His announcement came Saturday at the 7th District Republicans’ convention, and in an e-mail to reporters that followed.
“Since the election, Minnesotans from all across the district have continued to offer me words of encouragement to run for America’s future again,” Byberg said in a statement. “Building upon the strong base of support that my campaign received in 2010, I firmly believe that, after the 2012 election, and for the first time in 22 years our district will have new leadership in Washington.”
Byberg is the first challenger in any Minnesota congressional district to say he’s running again, and his announcement comes very early in the process. For one, the district lines haven’t even been drawn yet for 2012 (and likely won’t be until early next year). Secondly, the baseline vote here is certain to change, because the 7th must pick up 37,479 people via redistricting (and several models for doing that actually make the district more Democratic).
Redistricting here, as with every district, is the huge caveat, but analysts like Peterson’s chances to hold his seat once again. The Cook Political Report here in Washington lists the 7th as solidly Democratic.
Michael Bath, chairman of the political science faculty at Concordia College in Moorhead, said he’s “very bullish” on Peterson’s chances because he’s carved out a moderate record in the House and is well connected in his district.
“I think Collin Peterson has been pretty well liked and he’s weathered some pretty strong Republican storms,” Bath said. “I don’t think he’s ever going to be vulnerable in the way some people are.”