WASHINGTON — As has long been promised, House Democrats’ campaigning arm has arrived on Minnesota airwaves to protect Reps. Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has released two ads in Minnesota over the last few days targeting Peterson’s and Nolan’s opponents. In the 7th District, the DCCC hit state Sen. Torrey Westrom for drawing a salary during Minnesota’s government shutdown in 2011. Westrom, then a member of the state House, was one of 86 representatives to receive their paychecks during the three-week shutdown, which was set off by a debate between the GOP-controlled Legislature and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton over how to cover a budget shortfall.
“Sen. Westrom doesn’t deny that he was part of the group that shut down the government in St. Paul and cost the state millions, all to protect tax breaks for the wealthy,” DCCC spokesman Brandon Lorenz said in a statement. “The simple fact is no matter how hard Sen. Westrom tries to pretend otherwise, he kept his paycheck while trying to defend tax breaks for millionaires during the shutdown in St. Paul.”
The Westrom campaign said the focus on his official salary was misplaced.
“This is a perfect example of the desperate lengths Democrats will go to distract from the real issues, like our national debt that has grown by $14 trillion on Collin Peterson’s watch,” Westrom spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll said. “Negative attack ads like this only prove how oblivious Peterson is to the concerns and values here in Western Minnesota.”
Mills’ personal wealth highlighted
In the 8th District, the DCCC took aim at businessman Stewart Mills for the first time, highlighting his personal wealth and his support for tax proposals the ad says would favor the rich over the middle class (Mills expanded on his views of taxes in an interview with me last month). The ad relies on footage of Mills fixing his notably long hair before an apparent television interview.
“It’s pretty telling that Washington Democrats have to attack Stewart’s choice of hairstyle instead of running on Rick Nolan’s record,” Mills spokeswoman Chloe Rockow said in a statement. “They know it’s not a winning tactic to talk about how Nolan supports Obamacare, supports job-killing EPA regulations, voted against the Keystone pipeline, and earned an F rating from the NRA.”
These ads are the DCCC’s first foray into the two U.S. House races in that have attracted any real attention in Minnesota this cycle. The committee has purchased $2.8 million in ad time on Twin Cities area broadcast stations for ads through mid-October, according to public filings.
With the ads, the line-up of outside groups on the air in Minnesota’s congressional races has ticked up once again, with the 8th District serving as a focal point for independent spending. There, the DCCC, House Majority PAC and AFSCME have lined up to support Nolan; the National Republican Congressional Committee, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Rifle Association are backing Mills, and Sen. Norm Coleman’s American Action Network will eventually join them. Total outside spending has already topped $2.3 million there, according to a real-time tracking tool from the Sunlight Foundation.
In the 7th District, the DCCC and the NRCC as the main players so far. A conservative group called the American Future Fund spent a bit against Peterson over the winter. Groups have spent more than $840,000 in the 7th District so far.
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry