Two key leadership posts in Congress on the line for Minn.

Two key leadership posts held by Minnesota members of the U.S. House will be on the line tonight as Democrats across the country brace for what could be a change in power in Congress.

Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson is chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar oversees the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Both would be demoted to "ranking member" status if Republicans gain a majority in the House on Election Night -- and that's assuming each win re-election.

Oberstar greets a supporter
Rep. Jim Oberstar greets a supporter after a DFL rally Thursday evening at the Miners Memorial Building in Virginia, Minn.
MPR Photo/Derek Montgomery

Peterson is expected to have an easier time making it back to Washington, D.C., than Oberstar.

Oberstar has spent more time reaching out to voters in this year's campaign than he has in recent years. Republican Chip Cravaack, a retired Navy Reserve captain, believes he has a chance to unseat Oberstar, who has served Minnesota's 8th Congressional District since 1975.

(A preview of the race between Oberstar and Cravaack is available here.)

A poll released last week showed Oberstar and Cravaack in a tight race, and the Cook Political Report rates the district as a tossup.

Chip Cravaack
Chip Cravaack debates Congressman Jim Oberstar Tuesday morning at the DECC auditorium in Duluth, Minn.
MPR Photo/Derek Montgomery

The same rating was given for Minnesota's 1st District, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz is trying to defend his seat against Republican Randy Demmer.

Walz, who was first elected in 2006, has had less time than Oberstar and Peterson to prove himself in Washington.

The latest poll shows he's still ahead of Demmer, so Tuesday's results will depend a lot on whether Republicans can turn out the number of voters they say they can to beat incumbents like Walz and win a majority in the House.

Outside groups are watching and participating in the race. Just over a week ago, text message ads criticizing Walz were sent to voters in the district.

The group responsible for the ads, Americans in Contact PAC, have targeted Democratic congressional candidates across the country, pointing out their support for federal health care reform and accusing them of failing to create jobs.

Rep. Collin Peterson
Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represents Minnesota's 7th District.
U.S. House of Representatives

(A preview of the race between Walz and Demmer is available here.)

Changes in the other five Minnesota congressional seats would be considered major upsets, but a change in power in the House could also mean new opportunities for the three Republicans serving the state in Congress if they're able to hang onto their seats.

Republican Rep. John Kline, who serves Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District, is the ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee and could end up as leader of that committee if the Republicans take over.

While Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, who serves in the 6th district, isn't in line to lead any committees, her Tea Party Caucus in the House could become more important.

Profiles of all the major party candidates running for Congress -- plus a few of the smaller-name candidates -- in Minnesota are available here.

Check back Tuesday night for up-to-the-minute coverage of Minnesota's congressional races.

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