ST. PAUL — Republican Michelle Fischbach appeared to finally flip Minnesota's 7th Congressional District after nearly 30 years.
The Associated Press early Wednesday morning, Nov. 4, called Minnesota's 7th Congressional District race for Fischbach.
With incomplete election returns at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday, Fischbach held a 14 percentage point advantage over U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson with more than 355,000 votes counted. Results, which may not contain all results returned by mail, continued to stream in slowly Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning.
Fischbach carried 53.49% of the vote compared to Peterson’s 39.76% around 4:45 a.m. Wednesday morning. Legal Marijuana Now candidate Slater Johnson and Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis candidate Rae Hart Anderson split the remaining 6.5% of the vote in the vast district that spans nearly the entire western edge of the state.
About an hour ahead of the race call, Fischbach announced to dozens of supporters near New London, Minn., that she expected to snap a nearly three-decade Democratic-Farmer-Labor hold on the seat after all votes were counted in the vast district. Fischbach said there “isn’t a way he (Peterson) could make up the numbers at this point.”
“This is going to be national news because we were able to do this,” Fischbach said. “I promise I’ll pull up my bootstraps and I will work hard in Washington, D.C., and I will make sure our conservative views are represented with a strong voice in Washington, D.C.”
Fischbach would become the first Republican woman to represent the district if returns hold.
The race was one of the most hotly contested in the nation heading into Election Day. The 7th District gave President Donald Trump the largest margin of victory over Hillary Clinton of any represented by a Democratic member of Congress. And with a GOP candidate who has better name recognition and stronger financial backing than any who've challenged Peterson in recent years, Republicans have said they're confident they can unseat Peterson.
Peterson launched his bid for reelection and a 16th term in office with the strong backing of state and national farming groups. Fischbach, meanwhile, immediately flipped the contest to a toss-up status last year when she announced she would aim to break a nearly 30-year Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party hold on the seat.
Conservative groups poured millions of dollars into the district to advertise against Peterson and in favor of Fischbach. Fischbach is a former lieutenant governor and Minnesota Senate president. She ran her campaign with clear ties to Trump and promised voters a more conservative voice in Congress who would break with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's agenda.
Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and a proud independent, meanwhile has staked his campaign on his reputation of breaking with both political parties and of supporting farm policy as the representative of an ag-heavy district. And farm groups from around the country have helped fund a campaign to keep his seat and the gavel of the ag committee.
"I’m a senior member of the House, I’ve got credibility on both sides of the aisle. I can make things happen and that’s why you send people to Congress, to be able to do that," Peterson said. “It’s not that she would be against agriculture, it’s just that she would not bring any kind of influence to the table, which for us is crucial.”
Peterson watched election returns with his family Tuesday evening and wasn't available to comment on the results.
The winner will get a two-year term in office and a congressional salary of $174,000.
Forum News Service reporter Carolyn Lange contributed to this report from New London, Minn.