Dayton v. Kennedy

Returning Senator Mark Dayton to the Ranks of the Idle Rich in 2006

4/02/2005

On the Trail...

...Of competitive U.S. House races.

Here’s an urgent newsflash. Most Congressional seats aren’t in play. In fact, Congressional incumbents average a 95% chance of re-election every cycle. So open seats, rare as they can be, are precious commodities for both sides and one need not look further than National Journal’s 2006 U.S. House preview to see how few seats are even remotely in play. The Journal’s On the Trail page lists 32 potentially competitive districts, many of whose classification is entirely dependant on rumored opponents of mostly suspect stock---from NFL washout Heath Shuler to erratic-armed former Atlanta Braves catcher Dale Murphy.

Minnesota’s 6th Congressional isn’t much different:

MINNESOTA-06
Mark Kennedy (R)

2002 redistricting really helped make this a slightly GOP-leaning district. That said, with Kennedy making a Senate bid, it clearly falls in our most competitive category. Democrats are hoping they can get their 2004 nominee, Patty Wetterling, to run again. But she seems intent (for now) on exploring a Senate bid herself. Without Wetterling, Democrats face an uphill challenge.


Wetterling has a decision to make---and it probably needs to be made very soon. The longer she remains in the U.S. Senate race, the more difficult it becomes to change gears and run for Congress without alienating voters. Waltzing back into a previous race is tough after you’ve jumped into another campaign with both feet. Not even some incumbents are able to do it successfully and Wetterling doesn’t even have the aura of incumbency to fall back upon. Needless to say, if the shoe were on the other foot, Mark Kennedy would have the same difficulty explaining to 6th District voters his U.S. Senate candidacy.

If Wetterling stays put, the DFL bench is precisely that---second-stringers. St. Cloud Mayor John Ellenbecker might be the best alternative candidate mentioned thus far with former Transportation Commissioner and Blaine Mayor Elwyn Tinklenberg a close second. Former 6th District Congressman Bill Luther’s Chief of Staff, Ted Thompson, has also been mentioned as he was in 2004 before Wetterling’s candidacy. In all likelihood, count out 2002 nominee Janet Robert, who remains busy running Air America’s radio affiliate in Minnesota and probably isn’t interested in repeating her expensive negative campaign that earned only 35% at the polls.

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