In the Spotlight

News & Features
Profile: The 7th District Race
By Tim Post
October 19, 2000
Click for audio RealAudio

Voters in Minnesota's sprawling 7th district will choose from a political veteran and a newcomer in this fall's election. Five-term DFL Congressman Collin Peterson faces Republican Glen Menze, a Starbuck-area farmer.

The 7th District
To learn more about the 7th district, and the candidates running for office, see Campaign 2000's special section on the district.
THE 7TH DISTRICT covers a lot of land. It stretches from St Cloud to Moorhead to the Canadian border. The region is primarily agricultural land, and farmers make up a big part of the voter base.

Representative Collin Peterson has held onto the 7th district seat for 10 years. After a few tough races in the early '90s, Peterson has easily won the last two elections.

Peterson says he has gotten to know the important issues of this big district and hopes that voters see his Washington experience as an asset for the area.

"A lot of getting yourself in a position to get things done is building personal relationships with other members, and it takes time," he says. "There is so many people, and so much competition; it such a big institution that it's not something you do overnight. I think I've done a good job of building friendships and coalitions with members of both parties and that helps us."

Peterson is a conservative Democrat. He's opposed to legalized abortion and gun control. He's had broad support from many fairly conservative voters. Much of his opposition has come from the DFL itself. His conservative decisions have not pleased some in his own party.

Peterson says if re-elected, he plans to concentrate on agricultural issues. He favors a complete rewrite of the Freedom to Farm Bill. He claims the bill's attempt to help family farms survive by opening international markets hasn't translated to an increase in crop prices. He says if the Democrats regain control of Congress, he's in a good position to make changes to the Freedom to Farm Bill. Peterson is the 3rd ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.

Peterson's main challenger is Glen Menze. Menze has been active in the Republican party for several years. He's currently on the party's state executive committee, but has never run for office. Menze says Peterson has been in Congress for too long and has forgotten whom he represents. Menze says he is a George Bush Republican and wants to represent the 7th district as part of a Republican team.

"I want to make sure money coming into Social Security stays in the Social Security program, to tie that up and keep that that way. I want to see the prescription program like the one in Minnesota, throughout all entire 50 states and that's very easy to do. And I want to work my way down and make sure we get a tax cut out here," Menze says.

If elected, Menze says he would look at tinkering with the Freedom to Farm Bill. He's not in favor of scrapping the whole program, he says it needs some adjustments. He claims was a move in the right direction.

There's one other major party candidate on the ballot in the 7th district. Owen Sivertson is the Constitution Party candidate from Glyndon, Minnesota. Sivertson did not return repeated calls requesting an interview for this story.

Collin Peterson is a popular politician in a district where it's hard to get the voters' attention. Bob Weber, a political science professor at St John's University in Collegeville, says the size of the district is the biggest stumbling block for someone challenging Peterson for his seat.

"Its population is dispersed and the very size of it makes it difficult to win in the first place. But once you've won it, it's also difficult for someone to take it away from you. I think that in a sense is the situation that Colin Peterson is in," says Weber.

Weber says to defeat Peterson, a candidate would probably need to run once unsuccessfully, get to know people in the district, and spend the next two years building up name recognition for the next run at office.

Both Peterson and Menze have run low-key campaigns so far. A few parade appearances, some lawn signs and that's it. Both candidates say they will kick up their campaigns with radio ads during the last week of October.

Tim Post covers the 7th district for Minnesota Public Radio. You can reach him via e-mail at