Smart Politics is running a series of election profiles of all the Upper Midwestern U.S. Senate and U.S. House races leading up to the November 4th elections. The series will culminate with Smart Politics’ official projections. The twenty-first profile in the series is Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District race.
Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District comprises the eastern (Minneapolis) region of Hennepin County and the southern tip of Anoka County.
Keith Ellison filled the seat of retiring 14-term DFL Representative Martin Olav Sabo in 2006 by defeating Republican Alan Fine by a 34.3-point margin. Fine narrowly edged Independence Party candidate Tammy Lee, 21.3 to 21.0 percent (the strongest showing to date of an Independence Party candidate in a Minnesota U.S. House race). The closest a challenger came to unseating Sabo during his 28-year tenure in this Democratic stronghold was in 1994 – when Dorothy Legrand fell 24.6 points short – an unsuccessful bid during the ‘Republican revolution.’
The DFL has won the last 23 races in the 5th District dating back to 1962 (1 by Ellison, 14 by Sabo, and 8 by Donald Fraser) by an average margin of 34.8 points. Prior to 1962, Democrats carried the 5th District only one time, in 1902 (John Lind). Republicans won 37 of the remaining 39 5th District contests from 1890 through 1960, throughout its different geographic variations, only failing to carry the district in 1890 (Kittel Halvorson, running under the Farmers Alliance-Prohibition label) and 1936 (Dewey W. Johnson of the Farmer-Labor Party).
Ellison is the first black U.S. Representative from Minnesota, as well as the first Muslim in Congress altogether. Ellison currently serves on the House Financial Services and Judiciary Committees. The Representative’s stated Congressional priorities are “promoting peace, prosperity for working families, and promoting civil and human rights.
Republican Barb Davis White, a minister, is running on a platform that is pro-life, against federal control over education policy, and encouraging of business development in the district. White also advocates making the Bush tax cuts permanent, repealing ethanol subsidies, developing nuclear and natural gas energy, and withdrawing troops from Iraq only when the nation has stabilized.
Bill McGaughey is the lone third party candidate in the race. McGaughey is running a campaign emphasizing solutions to the U.S. trade deficit (anti-NAFTA and supporting tariffs on imports to help offset the imbalance that results from low-cost labor in developing countries). McGaughey also supports the development of alternative energies, such as wind, to help eliminate the oil-based component of the U.S. trade deficit. The Independence Party candidate also believes the United States should end its “war-based economy and empower the United Nations to step in and police the world.
Ellison serves the most reliably Democratic district in the state and, as such, the race is always for second place in the 5th CD. Third parties have garnered at least 5 percent of the vote in every 5th District contest since 1996. But while Republicans have only eclipsed 30 percent of the vote in the district in two elections since 1972, the Independence Party probably had its best chance for a second place finish last year with Tammy Lee.