Minnesota 1: Walz’s Gov Run Creates Vulnerable Open Seat

by Nathan L. Gonzales March 27, 2017 · 1:30 PM EDT

It could be a rough round of midterm elections for Republicans next year but DFL Rep. Tim Walz gave them a little gift by vacating Minnesota’s 1st District in order to run for governor. 

The six-term congressman won re-election narrowly, 50.3-49.6 percent, last year in a race that received little national attention. But Donald Trump simultaneously carried the rural district, 53-38 percent over Hillary Clinton and nearly dragged the GOP nominee across the finish line.

Walz’s absence gives Republicans a solid takeover opportunity. We’re changing our rating from Lean Democratic to Toss-Up. 

Walz, who first revealed his decision to the Post Bulletin, told Roll Call recently that he wasn’t worried about his party losing the seat and that Trump voeters already feeling disaffected.

But Democrats will need a lot of Trump voters to be disaffected considering the GOP presidential nominee carried the district by 15 points. And even if 2016 was an aberration, President Barack Obama carried it narrowly, 50-48 percent, over Mitt Romney in 2012, according to Daily Kos Elections.

Even though the district is competitive, it could be the right cycle for Walz to leave and still give his party an opportunity to succeed him. The president’s party has lost seats in 18 of the last 20 midterm elections, with an average of 33 seats in those 18 cycles, so the political climate could favor Democrats across the country. They need a net gain of 24 seats to retake the majority.  

Roll Call’s Simone Pathe listed Walz campaign manager and former state Rep. Terry Morrow as a potential DFL contender, as well as state Rep. Tina Liebling. On the Republican side, last year’s nominee Jim Hagedorn is running again.