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7th District win puts Peterson in ag chairman post

Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota's 7th Congressional District won re-election Tuesday. He will again be chairman of the House Ag Committee when Democrats take control in January. Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — With another win under under his belt and the House of Representatives flipping to Democratic control, DFL Congressman Collin Peterson is set to take over as chairman of the Ag Committee next year.

The key leadership job puts Peterson in the position to shape ag policy that could affect Minnesota's farm economy.

Peterson, 74, of Detroit Lakes, defeated GOP challenger Dave Hughes, 43, Karlstad, by a nearly 12,000-vote margin in the conservative-leaning district that encompasses western Minnesota.

This will be the 15th term for Peterson and the second time he's defeated Hughes, a retired Air Force officer who is a drone pilot and instructor.

Hughes is a strong supporter of President Trump, who is still very popular in the district.

In 2016, Hughes received 47 percent of the vote to Peterson's 53 percent.

This year Hughes did even better, getting 48 percent of the vote to Peterson's 52 percent.

In a written statement, Hughes said "While the results were not what my family and I had hoped, we respect the votes of the people of western Minnesota and thank all those who worked so hard to support my campaign with their time and treasure."

Hughes said "the message of true conservative leadership clearly resonates" with voters and he will "continue to work to bring reason and representation that defends the values of western Minnesota to the 38 counties of our district."

Hughes indicated he would have "more to say" in the coming days about his future political intentions.

Peterson acknowledged Trump affected the 7th District race again this year.

In a telephone news conference Wednesday morning with reporters from across the country, including the West Central Tribune, Peterson thanked constituents for "sticking with me" and promised to represent everyone in the district, whether they supported him or not.

Peterson said he won in 25 counties, including his hometown communities where "people know me best" and "know how I operate."

He noted strong support from sugar beet farmers.

Agriculture is a key issue in the 7th District and Peterson's role as chairman of the Ag Committee is significant.

Peterson predicted the farm bill, which has been bogged down in part because of disagreements between the Republican-controlled House and Senate, will be completed before Congress adjourns this year.

"We're going to stay there until we get this thing done," he said.

Peterson said he is not a fan of tariffs Trump has imposed — they have hurt farm exports and Peterson does not see a scenario under which agriculture is going to be better off than before the tariffs were implemented.

But Peterson said he will work with Trump to reach bipartisan trade agreements so the president and Congress can be successful.

Peterson said his goal next year as ag chairman is to put together a new committee that can focus on oversight of farm programs.

He said although many new House members are from the suburbs and may not know a lot about agriculture, he intends to help train new committee members so they can eventually step into the ag leadership role when he is no longer there and it's time to "exit the stage."

Peterson, however, refused to answer questions about whether he will seek re-election in 2020.

Whether he's in the House for another "two years to 10 years," Peterson said he wants Ag Committee members to be prepared to lead for an eventual transition.

When Congress reconvenes next year, Peterson said he expects Rep. Nancy Pelosi will be re-elected as Speaker of the House. He said there is currently no one to challenge Pelosi, who has indicated she will be a transitional speaker to prepare new leaders for that role.

Hughes said he and his wife, Amanda, "look on with horror at what metro progressives and congressional liberals under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi are sure to do in coming years" and said the district "can't afford to sit on the sidelines."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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