WASHINGTON — Rep. Collin Peterson said Monday he will seek a 13th term in the U.S. House this fall.
“What I’ve heard for the last two months, from everybody, as many Republicans as Democrats, is, you’ve got to run again, there’s still a lot of work to do,” Peterson told KFGO radio in Fargo on Monday.
Peterson is a Blue Dog Democrat, one of a dwindling number of moderates in Congress. The 69-year-old is the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, and he had deflected questions about his political plans until the end of crafting of a new five-year farm bill, which President Obama signed into law in February.
For months, Republicans have needled Peterson for what it had considered hints that the 69-year-old would call it a career, primarily his seemingly weak fundraising totals (though the numbers were right on par with Peterson’s usual efforts). Republicans had a vested interest in Peterson’s retirement: the 7th District is a right-leaning district and most expected it would flip to the GOP with Peterson off the ballot.
But Peterson has historically won re-election very easily: even as Mitt Romney won the 7th District in 2012, Peterson won 60 percent of the vote and defeated businessman Lee Byberg by 25 percent. In 2010, a great year nationally for Republicans, Peterson won by 17 percent. Most prognosticators consider him a favorite to win again this fall.
Republicans have fielded a candidate — state Sen. Torrey Westrom — they consider a stronger challenger than any Peterson has faced recently.
“I decided to run for Congress because I believe it is time for a new direction, fresh leadership, and a return to more of the conservative ideals that have made America great,” Westrom said in a statement. “Now that my opponent has decided to seek re-election, after decades in Washington, I eagerly look forward to the upcoming, spirited debate about the future direction of this country.”
National Republicans have indicated they’re willing to spend in the 7th to try weakening Peterson. After his announcement, the National Republican Congressional Committee put out a statement saying, “Collin Peterson may not be retiring on his own terms, but we have every intention of forcing him into retirement in November.”
Peterson told KFGO that he actually considers attacks from outside GOP groups an impetus to run again.
“You’ve got these outside people coming in, who know nothing about this district … it’s ridiculous,” he said. “It’s what’s wrong with politics, national groups trying to come in and take these seats for themselves, away from the people.”
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry