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Peterson to seek re-election to House

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson flew to Willmar on Monday and announced his bid for re-election. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)

WILLMAR –– Since Willmar is the second-largest city in the sprawling 7th Congressional District that covers more than a third of the state, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson said it made sense that Willmar was his second stop Monday to announce his re-election bid to Congress.

Peterson, a DFLer from Detroit Lakes, was first elected in 1990 to the U.S. House of Representatives.

His announcement that he intends to seek another term put a stop to rumors that he would not run again.

“There was more drama with this than there needed to be. And I don’t think I created it as much as the Republicans did,” said Peterson during an interview Monday afternoon at the Willmar Airport, where he landed his small, private plane that he pilots himself.

Peterson admitted his frustration with getting the farm bill passed may have added a little fuel to the fire that he wouldn’t run again.

“But they (Republicans) were the ones that were stirring things up that I was going to retire,” said Peterson. “We’re laying that to rest today.”

As a prominent force for agriculture in Washington, Peterson said he decided to run for another term in order to make sure the recently approved farm bill is implemented correctly.

“My job is not going to be done by the end of the year, so I need to hang around,” said Peterson.

There’s already concern that the candy industry will try to amend the farm bill’s sugar program, he said.

While past sugar prices have been good, Peterson said local sugar beet farmers will lose money this year without price supports that protect the U.S. industry from competition from other countries that have larger sugar subsidies.

“Ninety percent of people in Congress have no clue about this stuff,” said Peterson, adding that he received broad encouragement to run again because of his role in agriculture.

“Well, I suppose there are people out there than don’t think I should run, but I haven’t found them,” said Peterson. “There are as many Republicans as Democrats telling me I need to run again — that I’m the guy everybody listens to in agriculture.”

Torrey Westrom, a Republican from Elbow Lake who currently serves in the Minnesota Senate, has announced he intends to run against Peterson this fall.

Peterson said he has about $350,000 to $400,000 in his campaign fund now and will try to raise $1 million.

That should be enough to run his campaign, he said, unless the National Republican Committee and political action committees bring in millions of dollars in outside funds and that push “hijacks the election” in an effort to elect a GOP candidate.

Although Mitt Romney won the majority of votes in the 7th District, Peterson said this is an independent district where he has always had strong support.

Peterson said in a news release announcing his bid for re-election that he will continue his “independent streak” and will challenge the Obama administration when it issues regulations that negatively impact agriculture and rural areas.

 “While it can be frustrating to watch the dysfunction and partisan gridlock in Congress, I think there is still a place for moderate members like myself to try to build consensus and cooperation,” Peterson said in the news release.

 While in Willmar, Peterson also met Monday with Harris Duininck, a Prinsburg businessman who has worked with a local coalition of volunteers to turn state Highway 23 into a four-lane road from Willmar to St. Cloud.

Peterson said past congressional earmarks and efforts of the Highway 23 coalition helped build segments of the four-lane highway.

Peterson said he wants to meet with the coalition and state highway engineers to get the project rolling again.

Because federal earmarks of money for projects with only local or state benefits have been eliminated and state funding has not been allocated for Highway 23, Peterson said there needs to be “some kind of strategy to get this figured out.”

He said he hopes to rejuvenate the “enthusiasm” of the Highway 23 coalition.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” he said.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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