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Editorial: Peterson is the best choice for 7th District

Collin Peterson has been re-elected by the voters of the 7th District every two years since he was first elected to Congress in 1990. It should happen again in 2010.

This support for Peterson is even more surprising considering the 7th District tends to lean conservative and has consistently voted for the Republican candidate for president or senator in the past four elections.

The 7th District is a major player in the agriculture industry of Minnesota. Sugar beets in west central Minnesota and the Red River Valley push Minnesota to the No. 1 production ranking. The district also is instrumental in Minnesota's top ranking in turkey production, led by Jennie-O Turkey Store based here in Willmar. Corn, soybeans and dairy farmers in the district play a role in the state's production. In addition, ethanol and wind production are growing industries in the district.

Simply, agriculture is the major industry in the 7th District. Peterson knows the needs of agriculture and he was a major player in the latest farm bill. Even if Democrats lose the House, he would remain a ranking member on the committee and continue a role in future farm bills.

Peterson's Republican opponent is Lee Byberg, a businessperson from Willmar. He has worked long and hard talking to voters across the 35-county district, that runs from south of the Minnesota River north to the Canadian border. He has also set a fundraising record among Peterson's opponents. Those are noted accomplishments.

However, Byberg has not identified a strong enough message for voters to turn out his opponent. He believes the country is headed down a destructive path due to growing deficits and spending. Peterson believes that also. His anti-government rhetoric without specific solutions has not gained traction in farm country.

The other two Peterson opponents in the general election are Independence Party candidate Glen Menze of Starbuck and independent candidate Gene Waldorf of Grey Eagle. Neither has a significant following and has little chance of being elected.

Peterson has been re-elected by growing margins over the past decade because he understands and meets the needs of the 7th District. He has earned a "maverick" legislative record that defies the party label. Yet he remains a perceptive and well-informed politician and represents his district's interests very well. He has developed a down-to-earth style that connects with his voters -- a mix of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

Peterson has earned the respect and trust of the voters. We believe the 7th District should re-elect him on Nov. 2.