Minnesota "Ground Zero" for Outside Spending in 2018 Congressional Races

By Tom Hauser, KSTP-TV - The 2018 midterm congressional elections are just over a year away, but signs are already pointing to yet another record-breaking year for "outside spending" in Minnesota by national interest groups.

"The environment is ripe for big outside spending," says Carleton College political scientist Steven Schier,

Spending by outside groups on congressional races in Minnesota has grown from $9,672,625 in 2012, to $21,879,208 in 2014 and $27,289,436 in 2016. In 2012, most of the money was spent in one district. In 2014, two districts saw the most money. And three districts were the focus of outside spending in 2016.

In 2018, five Minnesota congressional districts could attract millions of dollars in outside money, possibly pushing the state past the $30 million mark for the first time.

"I'm not aware of any state this size or larger that has so many competitive House districts in 2018," Schier said. "Minnesota will be ground zero."

Election results from 2016 can point to reasons why. The state had two races decided by less than one percentage point, one race by less than two points and another by five points.

One of the races decided by less than a point, the first congressional district, was close, despite the fact Republican challenger Jim Hagedorn had only $1,463 spent supporting him by outside groups. He narrowly lost to incumbent Democrat Tim Walz. Walz is now running for governor, leaving his district with a wide open race.

"It had a squeaker of an outcome with a Democratic incumbent last time," Schier said. "There will be a lot of money spent by both parties and outside groups. It's a big opportunity for each political party."

That could mean that race could attract millions in 2018, along with expected competitive races in the second, third, sevnth and eighth congressional districts.