By David Montgomery, Pioneer Press - The battle for control of Congress may run through Minnesota next year — but so far, it’s only arrived in the west metro.
More than a dozen candidates for Minnesota’s eight U.S. House seats raised more than $2.5 million for their 2018 campaigns in the past three months, according to reports filed this weekend with the Federal Election Commission. But the only big-dollar race so far is the west metro’s 3rd District, where incumbent Rep. Erik Paulsen and DFL challenger Dean Phillips have combined to take in more than $1 million in the last quarter.
Several races expected to be competitive next year feature incumbents with no serious opposition yet, including Republican Rep. Jason Lewis in the south-suburban 2nd District and DFL Rep. Rick Nolan in northeastern Minnesota’s 8th District.
Only one race doesn’t have an incumbent, the one for southern Minnesota’s 1st District. Candidates in both parties there combined for less than $100,000.
Candidates for U.S. Senate had to file campaign finance reports by Saturday at midnight, just like House candidates. But reports for Senate candidates weren’t available Sunday because Senate reports are filed on paper, while House candidates file electronically, making their information available immediately.
HEATING UP IN THE 3RD
Paulsen spent $5.7 million defending his west metro seat in the last election; his DFL opponent spent nearly $2 million herself. A year and a half out from the 2018 election, the 3rd District is already attracting gobs of money.
Paulsen, a Republican, took in more than $565,000 over the last three months for his reelection bid — $200,000 more than he raised at this point two years ago.
But Paulsen’s most prominent DFL opponent, Phillips, raised $527,000 himself in his first months in the race. Another DFL candidate, Adam Jennings, took in $59,000.
The incumbent Paulsen has the financial advantage for now — he’s got nearly $1 million in the bank compared to Phillips’ $433,000. (Jennings has $46,000.) But neither Paulsen nor Phillips looks like they’ll lack for money in what’s expected to be one of the most targeted races of 2018.
SLOW STARTS FOR CHALLENGERS
The south suburban 2nd District is likely to be another of the country’s top races. There, freshman representative Lewis raised $217,000 in the past three months and has $402,000 in the bank.
But unlike Paulsen, Lewis hasn’t attracted any big-money challengers yet. Several Democrats have expressed an interest in challenging Lewis, but only Jeff Erdmann raised any money in the past three months: less than $30,000.
Angie Craig, who lost to Lewis in 2016, hasn’t announced whether she’ll run again — but is keeping her campaign active just in case.
Longtime DFL Rep. Collin Peterson, whose 7th District covers much of western Minnesota, has never been a strong fundraiser. He took in $132,000 in the past three months, a typical figure for him but far less than any other incumbent in a competitive race.
However, none of Peterson’s GOP rivals approached even this low bar. State lawmaker Tim Miller did the best with $29,000 raised and about that amount in the bank. Last year’s nominee Dave Hughes raised $1,536, but has $40,000 saved up from past quarters. Amanda Hinson raised just $45; her campaign finance report shows her with negative $123 on hand.
In the first three months of 2017, Republican Jim Hagedorn raised $221,000 for his campaign against incumbent DFL Rep. Tim Walz — Hagedorn’s best fundraising quarter in years as a candidate.
But then Walz announced that he’d run for Minnesota governor instead of for re-election to Congress. With an open seat instead of a potent incumbent, Hagedorn’s fundraising slowed to $79,000 in the second quarter of 2017. He has just under $200,000 in the bank.
That’s still better than any of Hagedorn’s potential DFL opponents. Former state lawmaker Vicki Jensen raised just $17,000. Four other Democrats have filed as candidates but none reported raising any money by Saturday’s deadline.
Other Republicans have considered entering the 1st District race, but Hagedorn is so far the only one to officially launch a campaign.
A number of Minnesota’s members of Congress haven’t drawn any major challengers.
Rep. Rick Nolan, whose 8th District in northeastern Minnesota was closely contested in 2016, is unopposed so far. He raised $192,000 in the second quarter and has nearly $400,000 on hand.
In the safely Republican 6th District, Rep. Tom Emmer took in $292,000 and has just under $500,000 saved up. (A Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Emmer in the 2016 primary, A.J. Kern, has an active campaign account with $332 in the bank, but she raised nothing the last three months.)
Rep. Keith Ellison raised $366,000 in his overwhelmingly Democratic 5th District, and has more than $500,000 in the bank.
Rep. Betty McCollum raised just $69,000 in the last quarter. That’s normal for McCollum, whose east metro seat is safely Democratic. She has $124,000 on hand. Her 2016 opponent, Greg Ryan, still has an active campaign account but raised just $125 in the past three months.