As Minnesota faces the real prospect of losing its 8th U.S. House seat in the 2012 reapportionment, the DFL looks to close the current census period with a bang, by returning to its glory days of the 1990s when it controlled 6 of the Gopher State’s Congressional districts.
One hurdle the DFL faces in 2010 is that the two districts they are targeting (the 3rd and, particularly, the 6th) are currently represented by the state’s two most adept fundraisers: Republicans Erik Paulsen and Michele Bachmann. Representatives Paulsen and Bachmann have led the Minnesota U.S. House delegation in campaign funds raised for each of the first two quarters of 2009.
Through June, Bachmann had raised $598,811 with Paulsen not far behind at $578,208. By comparison, only one DFL Representative had raised over $338,000 during that span (Jim Oberstar, at $431,464).
Political observers will rightly point out that, even with the expected mid-term election pullback among the electorate towards the Republican Party, Bachmann and Paulsen need to more aggressively fundraise than their delegation counterparts as they represent the two most vulnerable districts in the state (and the two districts D.C. prognosticators frequently place in the “vulnerable” column).
But history shows there is one potential pathway for the DFL in their march towards six House seats, and that is by fielding a winning candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial contest.
Since the DFL merger in 1944 there has been a change in partisan control of the Governor’s mansion 10 times. In 70 percent of these elections, there has also been a swing of at least one U.S. House seat for the party winning the gubernatorial contest, according to a Smart Politics analysis.
· In 1954, the DFL picked up one U.S. House seat (ousting 6-term incumbent Harold Hagen in the 9th) as DFLer Orville Freeman defeated Republican Governor C. Elmer Anderson in the gubernatorial race.
· In 1960, the GOP picked up one seat (defeating 6-term incumbent Roy Wier in the 3rd) while Republican Elmer L. Andersen defeated Governor Freeman.
· In 1962, when Minnesota’s delegation was reduced to 8 seats after reapportionment, the DFL picked up one seat (beating 10-term incumbent Walter Judd in the 5th) as DFLer Karl Rolvaag defeated Governor Andersen. (Republicans lost an additional seat in the reapportionment cutback to eight districts).
· In 1966, the GOP regained control of the Governor’s office, with Harold LeVander defeating Governor Rolvaag, and also picked up one U.S. House seat (beating 2-term DFL incumbent Alec Olson in the 6th).
· In 1970, control of the Governor’s mansion changed for a fourth consecutive election in Minnesota as DFLer Wendell Anderson won the state’s open gubernatorial contest. The DFL also picked up one U.S. House seat (defeating 6-term Republican incumbent Odin Langen in the 7th).
· In 1982, when DFLer Rudy Perpich won the open gubernatorial race, the DFL also picked up 2 newly drawn U.S. House districts (defeating 4-term incumbent Tom Hagedorn in the 1st and 2-term incumbent Arlen Erdahl in the 6th; Hagedorn had previous represented the 2nd CD and Erdahl the 1st CD).
· In 2002, with Republican Tim Pawlenty’s open race gubernatorial victory, the GOP also picked up one U.S. House seat (with Mark Kennedy winning the newly-drawn 6th CD).
In only one instance since the DFL merger has a political party both taken back control of the Governor’s mansion and lost a U.S. House seat. In 1990 Republican Arne Carlson defeated Governor Rudy Perpich but 7-term GOP incumbent Arlen Stangeland was defeated by Collin Peterson in the 7th CD.
There have also been two instances in which there was a change in gubernatorial party control but no change in the partisan composition of the state’s U.S. House delegation: 1978 and 1998.
However, even with a strong gubernatorial candidate in 2010, the road to six seats for the DFL will be very difficut given the current district map. The GOP held on to all 3 of its districts in 2008 despite receiving the lowest percentage of votes cast in U.S. House races statewide in Minnesota since 1934.
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