ST. PAUL — Setting up a "toss-up" heading into the general election, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson was the winner Tuesday, Aug. 11, of the 7th Congressional District's Democratic primary contest and Michelle Fischbach the victor of the Republican race.
The Associated Press declared Peterson and Fischbach the winners.
With 82% of precincts reporting in the district, Fischbach picked up 59% of the vote, while her closest competitors Dave Hughes and Noel Collis posted 22% of the vote and 14.6% of the vote, respectively. Jayesun Sherman and William Louwagie carried the remaining votes.
In the district's Democratic-Farmer-Labor primary, Peterson won his shot at reelection as he picked up 76% of the Democratic vote with 82% of precincts reporting. Alycia Gruenhagen carried 16% of the vote and Stephen Emery received 7.4%. Rae Hart Anderson came out ahead of Kevin "NeSe" Shores in the district's Grassroots — Legalize Cannabis Party primary into the late evening, with Anderson receiving 69% of votes compared to Shores' 31%.
The winners will move on to the general election to face Slater Johnson of the Legal Marijuana Now Party. And the November contest will likely be a tight one as Peterson tries to clinch a 16th term in office. National and state-level groups have already pumped money into the contest and vowed Tuesday night to do so again.
The district spanning almost the entire western side of the state gave President Donald Trump a 30 percentage point lead over Hillary Clinton in 2016. No other congressional district represented by a Democrat posted higher levels of support for the president.
Fischbach, a former lieutenant governor and state senator, earlier this year won the Republican endorsement during a virtual convention, but her GOP opponents said the online forum didn't capture an accurate representation of voters' feelings. She has also picked up endorsements from Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and dozens of state legislators.
Tuesday evening, she was greeted with cheers at the Republican Party’s Congressional District 7 watch party in Olivia, Minn., as aides showed Fischbach initial reports that projected her win. And she cast her sights to the general election.
“This election matters, and it matters big,” Fischbach said.
Trump on Monday tweeted in support of Fischbach, saying she was a "real winner." And the president's backing helped win over some Republican voters who said they cast their ballots for Fischbach on Tuesday.
“I voted for Michelle Fischbach. I was kind of back and forth between her and Dave Hughes but the president’s endorsement of her influenced my choice," Rod Rice, a 57-year-old Willmar pastor, said. "She has more of an opportunity to take the seat. He’s tried a few times before and didn’t make it so she has a better shot.”
Hughes, who has twice run against Peterson and come up short, said his third try would be the one to secure a win in the vast district. And gastroenterologist Noel Collis has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into an ad campaign there.
Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan at the Olivia event said the district was ready to retire Peterson and Fischbach was the candidate who could do that. And she celebrated news of the race call Tuesday evening.
"With President Trump back on the ballot, the seventh district is ripe for the picking and is one of the most important congressional seats in this country for Republicans to regain the majority in the United States House," Carnahan said in a news release. "We are energized, inspired and optimistic about our prospects of transforming the political make-up in Minnesota for a generation to come."
Ken Martin, Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chairman, on Tuesday night said he anticipated the GOP contest would yield a tighter result than the DFL primary in the 5th Congressional District. Rep. Ilhan Omar faced a challenge from political newcomer Antone Melton-Meaux but came out ahead.
And, Martin said, regardless of the outcome on the Republican side, Peterson would again put up a strong bid for his seat as voters in the area know him well.
“Why would people want to throw him out of office when he’s been delivering for his district for years and he understands agriculture?” Martin said. “It’s a very rural district and it’s a very ag district and, say what you will about Collin Peterson, he is one of the most powerful members of the House being the Agriculture Committee chair."
Forum News Service reporters Lydia Morrell in Willmar, Minn., and Sarah Mearhoff in St. Paul contributed to this report.