Times a-changin’: What does Ramstad’s departure do?


Third District party officials on both sides of the aisle are about to become a bit more popular.

Nine-term congressman Jim Ramstad’s decision Monday to retire throws the outlook across Minnesota into question. The 3rd District covers most of the second- and third-ring suburbs west of Minneapolis, as well as Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, and part of Anoka. With the traditional Republican strongholds of Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and Plymouth rapidly turning blue at the state and presidential levels, the district makes for a classic battleground in 2008.

Campaign Notebook: All Eyes on Minnesota
by Joe Bodell

What did Minnesota do to deserve the 2008 cycle we’re going to have?

As of yesterday’s announcement from third-district Congressman Jim Ramstad that he would not seek reelection in 2008, we now have not one, not two, but three potentially competitive congressional races. Four Republicans have lined up for the chance to take on first-term Congressman Tim Walz in the First, a bevy of Democrats now must consider their options in the Third, and a three-way race for the nomination to face Michele Bachmann in the Sixth will soon be underway. Three of eight — imagine if California had twenty competitive seats in a single cycle.

And that doesn’t include murmurs about a strong challenge for Republican John Kline’s Second district seat from Iraq veteran Steve Sarvi.

Oh, and Minnesota’s precinct caucuses will be held on Tsunami Tuesday.

And the Republican National Convention will be held in St. Paul.

Oh, and we have a pretty important Senate race too.

Good luck keeping up — it’s going to be intense.

Ramstad’s departure will almost certainly cause Democrats at the state and national levels to take a long, hard look at this race. With several notable names already connected with this race (led by Andy Luger, the 2006 DFL-endorsed candidate for Hennepin county attorney), the 3rd represents an opportunity for DFLers to “move the goalposts” on their Republican opponents and help spread Republican resources a bit thinner as the GOP seeks to unseat first-term DFL congressman Tim Walz.

For Republicans, however, this represents an equal opportunity as well. Many Republican activists have expressed frustration with Rep. Ramstad in recent months, occasionally calling him a RINO — a Republican-In-Name-Only — for his votes with the newly minted Democratic majority on several major initiatives. Republican candidates will likely seek to burnish their hard conservative credentials in an effort to woo activists and delegates for whom compromise with liberals is not an option, and a win for a strong conservative candidate would be a solid win not just for the Republican Party but for its conservative base.

The race will definitely bring more eyes from outside Minnesota. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post , and several big-name blogs devoted entire front-page posts to today’s announcement.

So who’s where? Andy Luger confirmed over the phone (on his way to the airport for an out-of-town trip) that he is seriously considering an entry into the race. Buck Humphrey’s name has been mentioned, and a rumor that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has already spoken to Humphrey about a run could not be confirmed (yet). The DFL has several notable women in the state Legislature — Sen. Terri Bonoff, Rep. Maria Ruud and Rep. Melissa Hortmann — who might draw the attention of Emily’s List, a powerful national advocacy organization focused on supporting pro-choice women candidates.

As for Republican contenders, state Sens. Geoff Michel of Edina and David Hann of Eden Prairie, as well as State Rep. Erik Paulsen of Eden Prairie and former State Sen. David Gaither of Minnetonka would each represent a move to the right for the local GOP. Indeed, Gaither was at the head of an effort to field a conservative challenger to Ramstad himself in the Republican primary.

Ramstad’s move, however, leaves precious little time for contenders in both parties to gather resources and make their cases before precinct caucuses in February. Prepare for plenty of flying fur, coming up soon!

Which DFLers are considering a run for Congress in the 3rd District?

As of Monday night, we know the following…

Andy Luger: Strongly considering
Buck Humphrey: Strongly considering
State Rep. Maria Ruud: Considering
State Sen. Terri Bonoff: Considering
State Rep. Melissa Hortmann: Considering

Other names mentioned at least once Monday…
State Rep. Steve Simon: Might be interested
Former state Sen. Steve Kelley: Wouldn’t rule anything out, but had some good comments to make.
Businessman Kelly Doran: ?
Former congressman Bill Luther: ?