This is by way of a small addendum to Briana Bierschbach’s excellent piece of a couple of weeks ago about the strange quietude in the 2016 election lineup for Minnesota.
Minnesota, as you may know, is always at or near the top in voter participation. And presidential elections always elevate turnout in general, and we’ll have one of those in 2016 (although Minnesota pretty much never appears on the list of swing states into which the national campaigns pour resources, and there’s little reason at the moment to believe that we will be on that list in 2016). Briana’s piece pointed out that, although all 201 legislative seats will be on the ballot, 2016 is relatively rare year in which there will be no statewide offices on the ballot.
The governor’s office and the other statewide constitutional offices are in the middle of their four-year terms and the vagaries of the U.S. Senate election cycles (every state has a Senate seat up two out of every three even-numbered years) leaves us without a U.S. Senate race. All that was in the Bierschbach piece.
I just wanted to add that the next place you might look for some political excitement in 2016 — races for the U.S. House — also looks fairly unpromising if you’re looking for close races that might gin up turnout.
Taking as my text the recently updated outlook of U.S. House races by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, which obsessively follows all such contests, R&G rate seven of Minnesota’s eight U.S. House members as “safe” for reelection.
The only exception is the Seventh District, the huge western Minnesota district represented since 1991 by ultimate Blue Dog Democrat Collin Peterson. The Seventh is one of the most anti-Obama districts in the country represented by a Democrat, and Republicans are always gunning for Peterson. But (as he is in the middle of his 12th term and is now the senior Democrat on the Agriculture Committee) they have been unable to dislodge him, or even come within 10 percentage points.
The Repubs will be likely be favored to take over that seat when Peterson retires. And Peterson just turned 71. But he has not announced any retirement plans.
Nathan Gonzales (of Rothenberg & Gonzales) tells me that that he knows that Repubs haven’t lost interest in knocking Peterson off, but they haven’t yet come up with a strong challenger. Until Republicans do, or until Peterson announces his retirement, R&G list the seat as “Democrat Favored,” and the main reason that they don’t list it as “safe” for Peterson is that Obama is so unpopular there.
The other two Minnesota districts that have generated some buzz over recent cycles have been the Second District (southern Minnesota, represented by Republican John Kline) and the Eighth (Iron Range, represented by Democrat Rick Nolan), both of which Rothenberg & Gonzales currently rate as safe for the incumbent party.
Obama carried the Second District, narrowly, in the last two presidential cycles, but Kline has survived fairly easily (most recently with 56 percent of the vote in 2014). Nolan had a close race against Mills Fleet Farm heir Stewart Mills, and Mills hasn’t said yet whether he will run again. Gonzales says that although they currently rate those two districts as safe for the incumbent party, they are watching to see who emerges as challengers.