Former Minnesota Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach on Tuesday declared victory in the GOP primary for Minnesota’s 7th congressional district in the rural western part of the state. It sets up what is likely to be one of the most competitive battleground states as the GOP aims to end the 30 year dominance of Democratic incumbent Collin Peterson.
In a contentious five way primary, Fischbach, who earned crucial endorsements from both Minnesota GOP and President Trump in the final weeks, dominated the race by more than 59% of the total vote. She easily defeated out her strongest opponent, Air Force veteran and the GOP challenger from the district in 2016 and 2018, Dave Hughes by almost 40%.
Despite the key endorsements and Fischbach’s long tenure as a state senator and nearly $350,000 cash advantage, her campaign was frequently caught in controversy.
Fischbach’s campaign manager was handed a restraining order against Hughes for allegedly calling him more than 300 times in “coordinated attacks” to disrupt virtual campaign speeches. Hughes also filed an FEC complaint accusing Fischbach of accepting more than $20,000 from political action committees that are controlled or influenced by members of her immediate family.
Furthermore, while she was able to secure the endorsement from the Minnesota GOP, it took 8 rounds of voting to gain the 60% needed for endorsement. Indicating that state party officials did not have resounding confidence in her campaign.
Her next challenge will be finding a way to distinguish her conservative brand from Peterson, the 15 term incumbent and chair of the House agriculture committee.
Peterson is considered one of if not the most conservative members of the house Democratic party. He is anti abortion, has received an A rating from the NRA and was one of two democrats to vote against impeachment of President Trump. His chairmanship of the house agriculture committee also gives him incredible influence in a district where cropland dominates the region. Peterson carried his primary easily with 75% of the vote.
In 2016, Trump managed to win the district by +30%, Rep. Peterson was able to retain his seat by a 5.1%. In order for the GOP to have any chance of taking back the house, candidates will have to dominate in rural districts such as MN-07. A recent Fox News Poll had Trump trailing Former VP Biden by 13% in a statewide race.
2020 may prove to be the perfect year for Fischbach to challenge. Cook Political Report, a non-partisan election rating service, has labeled this race a tossup, Peterson had his smallest margin of victory in 2018 since his first election in 1990, and with Trump on the top of the ticket it may be all she needs to overtake a longtime democratic stronghold.