Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson defeated an underfunded GOP challenger who had no national support by just 5 points in 2016.
Now, a Republican businessman whom national operatives have viewed as a strong recruit is eyeing a challenge to the Democratic-Farmer-Labor congressman in the 7th District.
Scott Van Binsbergen, who co-owns a property management business, first looked at taking on Peterson in 2014 but ultimately passed on the race. The real estate agent confirmed Friday that with his children older, he’s giving the 2018 more serious thought. He’s met with the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington, D.C., and expects to make a decision within the next two weeks.
A former staffer for retired Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, Van Binsbergen lost a state House race in 2006. A GOP operative familiar with the state called Van Binsbergen a “tier one recruit” for the 7th District, which President Donald Trump won by more than 30 points in 2016.
Operatives from both sides of the aisle recognize that when Peterson — one of the most conservative Democrats in the House — retires, this seat is likely to flip to Republicans. Peterson told Roll Call last April he’s running in 2018 and was ignoring GOP efforts to target him.
National Republicans have targeted Peterson before. The GOP spent millions trying to knock him off during a strong year for Republicans nationally. But Peterson survived — by nearly 9 points. He’s maintained that being on the NRCC’s target list only emboldened him to keep running. A few weeks before his 2016 re-election, Peterson said he knew of at least 10 Republicans who had stopped paying their dues to the NRCC to protest efforts to unseat him in 2014.
Van Binsbergen knows it’ll take money to unseat an incumbent and doesn’t expect to make a large personal investment in his campaign, so he’s trying to determine how much national help will be there.
“If I get in, I want to make sure it’s got a national flare and it’s a national race,” he said in a phone interview Friday.
Van Binsbergen’s main argument against Peterson, who was first elected in 1990, is that he’s been in Congress too long.
“I’m a real believer that citizens should go and serve for a short period of time,” Van Binsbergen said. “It’s time to pass the torch.”
“He’s not paying enough attention to what’s going on in our small towns out here,” Van Binsbergen said. Asked for an example, he suggested Peterson was absent. “You just don’t see the congressman around a whole lot,” he said.
As for specific policy disagreements with Peterson, Van Binsbergen pointed to the congressman’s vote against the GOP tax plan.
An early supporter of Trump, Van Binsbergen identifies with the president’s business background. He believes Trump’s popularity in the 7th District and dislike for Hillary Clinton in 2016 pushed down-ballot votes to GOP nominee Dave Hughes even though he didn’t raise money or do much campaigning.
With about $3,000 on hand before Election Day, Hughes earned more than 47 percent of the vote against Peterson. He’s running again this cycle and ended 2017 with $29,000. Hughes has loaned his campaign $42,000.
Peterson ended 2017 with $933,000. He’s one of 14 vulnerable incumbents worth at least $1 million.
Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 7th District race Leans Democratic.
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