A country-music playing Democrat, Collin Peterson feels more at home with President Bush than he did with former President Bill Clinton. Then again, Peterson isn't shy about siding with Republicans on big votes, such as prescription drugs and HMO legislation.
Peterson was one of seven conservative Democrats who formed the "Blue Dog" coalition. It was a play on the phrase "Yellow-Dog Democrats," party loyalists who would vote for a yellow dog if it ran on the Democratic ticket. Some Blue Dogs say they were choked blue by their party. But Peterson has pulled back some, complaining that the coalition has become too partisan and too focused on elections.
Peterson is an avid hunter who brings to Capitol Hill an expertise in wildlife, hunting and conservationn issues. This was no more apparent than during the 2000 session, where he fought to stop interstate shipping of birds for cockfighting and promoted legislation to allow hunting of double-crested cormorants, birds Peterson claims are interfering with sport fishing.
The way Peterson _ who represents an expansive district in northwestern Minnesota _ puts it, "It took me a while out here to kind of find a niche." Nonetheless, he has won re-election in the past couple cycles with ease.
Earlier in his term, Peterson faced tougher challenges. He faced a challenge from Republican former state representative Bernie Omann, who nearly upset Peterson in 1992, losing by only one percentage point. Peterson fared a little better in 1994 _ he won by two percentage points.
Before deciding to seek another term in 2000, Peterson was mentioned as a possible challenger to U.S. Sen. Rod Grams. He also interviewed for the top natural resources job in Gov. Jesse Ventura's administration, but Peterson said he didn't get the right feel.
Peterson serves on the House committees that focus on veterans affairs and agriculture. He also is the Democratic chairman of Congress' 281-member Sportsmen's Caucus. The Democrat preaches fiscal conservatism on the House floor, and to prove his point he reduced the cost of running his congressional offices by nearly 13 percent in 1993.
Peterson opposes a ban on handguns, instead suggesting legislation that would mandate life in prison for anyone who commits a crime with a gun. Peterson gained attention in 1998 when he proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow the Northwest Angle's 100 residents to vote on whether they want to secede from the United States and join Manitoba. The idea was to get the Clinton administration to intervene in their dispute with neighboring Ontario over the province's fishing restrictions, which prohibit people who stay at Minnesota resorts from keeping any fish. Peterson favored a constitutional amendment to prohibit abortions except to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape and incest. He favors the death penalty.
The liberal Americans for Democratic Action gave Peterson's 2000 voting record a score of 60 points out of 100; the American Conservative Union gave him 32 points.
This year Collin Peterson faces one of his stiffest challenges since coming to Congress in 1991. His opponent is Republican state Sen. Dan Stevens, who moved from Mora to Alexandria this spring.
His move coincided with redistricting, which greatly expanded the 7th District to include almost the entire western half of Minnesota.
In 1990, he defeated GOP incumbent Rep. Arlan Stangeland with 54 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 1992, narrowly defeating Republican former state representative Bernie Omann with 50 percent of the vote to 49 percent. He defeated Omann again in 1994, 51 percent to 49 percent. In 1996, he was re-elected with 68 percent of the vote against Republican Darrell McKigney. Peterson was re-elected in 1998 by defeating Republican Aleta Edin with 72 percent of the vote. In 2000, he beat Glen Menze with 69 percent of the vote. Peterson was elected to the Minnesota Senate in 1976, and was re-elected in 1980 and 1982. He lost two bids for the U.S. House in 1984 and 1986, and a four-way primary battle in 1988.