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Tom Emmer has established himself as the clear front-runner to replace U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in the 6th Congressional District by raising far more money than his opponents for the GOP nomination.

Emmer’s out of the gate with big haul

Republican Tom Emmer, who is running for the 6th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Michele Bachmann, raised $211,000 in less than a month. “It’s certainly an impressive start,” says GOP operative Gregg Peppin.

Tom Emmer has established himself as the clear front-runner to replace U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in the 6th Congressional District by raising far more money than his opponents for the GOP nomination.

Emmer took in $211,000 in less than a month after launching his campaign, according to his second-quarter filing with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). To put that figure in perspective, it’s more than six times as much as state Sen. John Pederson ($33,000) and more than 10 times as much as Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah ($19,000), the other two GOP candidates in the contest.

“It’s certainly an impressive start for Tom Emmer,” said Gregg Peppin, a veteran GOP operative who is not working for any candidate in the 6th District contest. “I guess the question is, has he tapped into the low-hanging fruit and exhausted that?”

Emmer’s haul included contributions from high-profile GOP donors. Among his benefactors: Bill and Tani Austin, the owners of hearing aid company Starkey Laboratories ($10,400); Robert and Joan Cummins, the founders and chief supporters of the Freedom Club ($10,400); and Stanley Hubbard, the founder of Hubbard Broadcasting ($2,600).

Also among Emmer’s contributors were three GOP legislators: Sen. Karin Housley (St. Mary’s Point) and Reps. Jerry Hertaus (Greenfield) and David FitzSimmons (Albertville).

No DFL candidates have registered to run in the 6th District, which tilts strongly Republican. But lead-abatement activist Judy Adams and Sartell Mayor Joe Perske have expressed interest in the race.

Nolan, Kline could face competition

Emmer’s formidable financial showing was the most notable takeaway from second-quarter congressional FEC filings that were due on Monday. But two other races also merit watching.

Most notably, freshman DFL Rep. Rick Nolan, who has expressed disillusionment with the constant money hunt required of candidates, raised just $135,000. He finished the quarter with less than $200,000 in the bank to defend the 8th Congressional District seat.

The only announced GOP challenger, Stewart Mills, is largely anonymous at this point in the campaign cycle. He’s mainly known as a member of the family that owns the Fleet Farm retail chain and as a gun rights enthusiast. Mills didn’t register his campaign with the FEC until July and was not required to file a second-quarter fundraising report.

“He’s a first-time candidate. That could go a lot of different ways,” said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. “He has strong local ties and he isn’t a run-of-the-mill Republican.”

The other race that could prove competitive is in the 2nd Congressional District. Redistricting made it a tougher hold for Republicans, but Rep. John Kline has so far proven impervious to the political winds. In 2012, he won by 8 percentage points over DFL challenger Mike Obermueller in a district where Barack Obama and Mitt Romney battled to a draw in the presidential contest.

Kline took in $475,000 during the second quarter and reported $1.1 million cash on hand. Obermueller is challenging Kline again. He raised $130,000 in the second quarter and reported $93,000 in the bank.

Kline is also facing a GOP challenger, David Gerson, for the second consecutive cycle. But Gerson, who identifies with the libertarian wing of the party, raised less than $3,000 in the second quarter and had just $5,000 in the bank. In addition, his campaign committee had debts of nearly $70,000, all of it in the form of loans from the candidate.

Obermueller will need to convince national political groups—most notably the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—that he’s a viable challenger before he’ll be able to attract the resources necessary to pose a threat to Kline. The retirement of Bachmann could help in that regard.

“I think the effort to target Kline is a result of the 6th District falling off the competitive list because of Bachmann,” said Gonzales. “They’re kind of looking, ‘Well, where’s another opportunity in the state?’ ”
The other five congressional races are unlikely to prove competitive:

1st Congressional District: DFL Rep. Tim Walz raised just over $200,000 in the second quarter, but had less than that amount in the bank. The four-term incumbent represents a swing district, but won re-election by 15 percentage points in 2012. State Rep. Mike Benson is the lone GOP challenger so far. He didn’t file his campaign papers until the last week of June and hasn’t released any fundraising figures.

3rd Congressional District: Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen had the largest haul of any member of Minnesota’s delegation. He took in nearly $500,000 in the second quarter and finished June with $1.3 million in the bank. No DFL challenger has emerged to take on Paulsen. Despite representing a swing district that Obama carried in 2012, he won his last re-election bid by more than 15 percentage points.

7th Congressional District: DFL Rep. Collin Peterson raised just under $100,000 and had just over $200,000 cash on hand at the end of June. The district tilts strongly Republican, with the Cook Partisan Voting Index giving GOP candidates a 6 percentage point generic advantage. But Peterson is serving his 13th term and has won by double digits in each of the last 10 election cycles. So far, he’s attracted no GOP challengers. If he decided to retire, which appears highly unlikely, this race would be turned completely on its head.

4th Congressional District: DFL Rep. Betty McCollum had the most lackluster numbers of any member of the state’s congressional delegation. She took in less than $60,000 and had a similar sum in the bank. In 2012, the seven-term incumbent won re-election by more than 30 percentage points.

5th Congressional District: Keith Ellison took in $190,000 and had $140,000 cash on hand. Representing the state’s most DFL-friendly district, Ellison is unlikely to face a credible challenger in 2014.

Of course, the outlook for at least some of these races could change if the national political climate tilts dramatically. Election Day, after all, is still 16 months away.

“I think it’s more likely to be either neutral or slightly Republican nationally,” said Gonzales, noting that the party of a president facing a second mid-term election doesn’t typically fare well. “I don’t think we’re on a path for a Democratic surge election.”

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