There’s buzz in the Northland that the battle for the 8th Congressional District seat is making state House Ways and Means Chairman Loren Solberg’s re-election bid more competitive than in previous election cycles.
Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, who is heading up the House Republican campaign effort, said District 3B is an “uphill district” for Republicans. Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, has served 14 terms in the House.
But Dean said he’s hearing the race is marked by grass roots intensity in the form of more lawn signs and an active ground game on the Republican side.
“I would expect if there is a surprise or a wave that is a place that could experience what they’re calling the Oberstar affect,” Dean said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, who has represented northeastern Minnesota in Congress since 1974, appears to be facing a strong challenge from Republican Chip Cravaack in the midst of national anger over the Democrat’s spending and health care reform.
One DFLer who has door knocked in the 8th CD told PIM that the frustration with Oberstar hasn’t manifested itself with DFL incumbents in the Legislature. Republicans, however, think Solberg could fall prey to voters’ fiscal concerns because of his role as Ways and Means chairman.
Republican Carolyn McElfatrick, a retired nurse from Grand Rapids, is running against Solberg in a rematch from 2008. Solberg won by 15.5 percent. Name recognition and history are key factors that distinguish northern Minnesota incumbents from national and statewide candidates.
Barack Obama edged out John McCain in the 2008 presidential election by 3 percentage points in a bad year nationally for Republicans. Al Franken beat Norm Coleman in the U.S. Senate race by less than 2 percent. The district was evenly split in the 2004 presidential election between John Kerry and George W. Bush.
Both Solberg and McElfatrick are said to be working hard on the campaign trail. As to whether the race has reached a new level of competitiveness, Solberg said the election results are the ultimate indicator.
“I’ll tell you on Nov. 3. I’m running the same campaign I always run.” Solberg said.