Peterson re-elected in northwestern Minnesota

Published 12:12 am Wednesday, November 5, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — Veteran Rep. Collin Peterson held off a strong challenge to win his 13th term in the U.S. House on Tuesday while another Minnesota Democrat fought to keep his congressional seat.

Peterson, a Democrat who normally easily won re-election in his conservative-leaning district, beat Republican state Sen. Torrey Westrom in northwestern Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Democrats waited anxiously to see if Rep. Rick Nolan would emerge from a difficult race to keep his northeastern Minnesota seat. With nearly half the precincts reporting, Nolan continued to lead Republican Stewart Mills in a U.S. House race that ranked among the most expensive nationally.

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In central Minnesota, Republican Tom Emmer stepped into the congressional seat being vacated by Michele Bachmann, rejuvenating his political career just four years after a narrow defeat in the governor’s race.

Emmer eased past Democrat and Sartell Mayor Joe Perske and Independence Party candidate John Denney, a law student, for the central Minnesota seat held by Bachmann, who is retiring. Emmer lost the governor’s race four years ago to Democrat Mark Dayton.

Elsewhere, Democrats in the Twin Cities metro and southern Minnesota and Republicans in suburban districts cruised to re-election.

Mills, a 42-year-old scion of the Fleet Farm chain of stores, hoped to capitalize on the 8th District’s changing political face. He weathered attack ads from Democratic groups targeting his personal wealth — and his chin-length hair — in a race that topped the $10 million mark for outside spending.

Mills called for a “flatter, fairer” tax code and criticized Nolan for supporting President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, as well as votes to ban assault weapons and on other gun control measures. Nolan, 70, defended his stance on guns, saying he doesn’t need an assault rifle to go hunting.

Seeking a second term in his second stint in Congress — he also served in the House in the 1970s and early ’80s — Nolan played up a middle-class ethos in the waning days of his campaign. He, too, was the subject of millions of dollars of attack ads from outside groups.

Peterson, who has mostly coasted through past re-elections, got a first taste of outside money in the massive 7th District. Peterson faced pressure from Westrom, and the GOP took notice. The National Republican Congressional Committee seized on Peterson’s travel expenses from car leases and his personal plane, and spent millions on attack ads to try to paint the conservative Democrat as out-of-touch.

Peterson, 70, played up his agricultural expertise and stewardship of the 2014 farm bill to shore up support.

Westrom, a 41-year-old attorney who has spent nearly two decades in the state Legislature, had called for new voices in Washington to break gridlock in Congress.