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Michelle Fischbach announces congressional challenge to Collin Peterson

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Republican Lt. Governor Michelle Fischbach.
Republican Lt. Governor Michelle Fischbach takes questions from reporters during a press conference inside the State Office Building in St. Paul on May 31, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson is one of the few Democrats in Congress who represents an overwhelmingly Republican-leaning District, but on Monday he got a new potential challenger who could bring national attention and fundraising chops to bear against him should he seek reelection to a 16th term.

Michelle Fischbach, a former lieutenant governor and longtime state senator, announced she is running in Minnesota’s 7th District, which covers the western half of the state from the Canadian border nearly to Iowa.

President Trump easily won the district in 2016, with more than 61 percent of the vote, compared to 31 percent for Hillary Clinton. And while Peterson also won in 2016 and 2018, his margin of victory has narrowed over the years.

Farmfest 2019
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., speaks at a listening session at Farmfest on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, in Morgan, Minn., as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue takes notes.
Elizabeth Dunbar | MPR News

Peterson defeated Republican Dave Hughes in 2018 by 52 percent to 47 percent. Just last month Hughes said he would run again in 2020.

Trump played heavily in Fischbach’s Monday announcement that she was running.

“Western Minnesota families deserve a representative who will fight for their values in Washington and support President Trump’s agenda – not the socialist agenda of Nancy Pelosi, Ilhan Omar, and the rest of the squad,” Fischbach said. “People here believe in our constitutional rights. They believe in the right to life. They believe in making sure the next generation has the opportunity to pursue the American dream right here in Western Minnesota.”

Fischbach, of Paynesville, was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 1996. She was reelected six times.

Fischbach noted that her recent stint as lieutenant governor made her the last Republican to hold statewide office. It was an office that she was not elected to, and that she took under protest, preferring to stay in the Minnesota Senate. As Senate president, Fischbach ascended to the office of lieutenant governor when then-Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Tina Smith to the U.S. Senate.

Peterson traditionally has waited until the year of the election to announce his plans to run. In late June he told the Forum News Service he would make his plans known in January or February of 2020.