The tweet embedded below, highlighting a comment from U.S. House of Representative Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, R-CA22, from the New Yorker article, A House Divided:How a radical group of Republicans pushed Congress to the right, recalls similar--though far less dramatic--remarks made by Minnesota Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson in 2009.
GOP headache: The birther issue, a 2009 article posted by Politico, cited the long-serving Peterson's example that conspiracy theories are nothing new:
Out-party politicians have long had to deal with conspiracy theorists on their side — the people who think that the Clintons killed Vince Foster or that the Bush administration helped orchestrate the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Twenty-five percent of my people believe the Pentagon and Rumsfeld were responsible for taking the twin towers down,” said Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat who represents a conservative Republican district in Minnesota. “That’s why I don’t do town meetings.”
The Republican Party of Minnesota jumped on the page 2 remarks after the Pioneer Press blog Political Animal shared them in a now defunct post. In GOP targets U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, Minnesota Public Radio's Tim Nelson reported:
It's 16 months before the next election, and Minnesota Republicans say they're mounting a renewed challenge to U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a DFLer who represents northwestern Minnesota's 7th Congressional District.
They're calling attention to remarks he made to a Virginia-based political Web site. Peterson was quoted saying one in four of his constituents are fringe-thinking conspiracy theorists.
Peterson is one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress -- and one of the safest. He won his last election by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.
But Republicans say Peterson's remarks have made him newly vulnerable.
Peterson recently told Politico.com that he didn't like to hold town hall meetings in his district because so many of his constituents hold fringe ideas, including the belief that the Bush administration played a secret role in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
Peterson's comments were part of a larger story on the disruptive effect of the "birther" movement, people who claim President Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, and so doesn't meet the constitutional requirement to serve as president.
Republicans say Peterson is ignoring his mainstream constituents.
"My phone, and I'm sure the phones here at the party, have been literally ringing off the hook," said Michael Brodkorb, deputy chairman of the state Republican Party. "I think his remarks will provide an opportunity for a first-tier candidate to get in this race. I think today's the start of a pretty serious campaign against Collin Peterson, and I think the 7th CD just became a heck of a lot more competitive than it previously was."
Brodkorb announced today that his party is running a radio ad critical of Peterson's remarks, as well as his recent votes on the federal budget and climate change.
Peterson apologized on Monday for the remarks he made in the Politico article, and this afternoon he responded to the Republican challenge in a statement issued by his office.
"As for the Republican Party's new ad, I think they can say whatever they want. I'm guessing that my constituents are more interested in cutting the deficit and getting spending under control, and getting a health care bill that works for them and that we can afford," said Peterson. . . .
The Minnesota Republican Party is newly energized after the recent elections of Brodkorb and its new chairman Tony Sutton. They're clearly using Peterson's remarks to open political battles on new fronts.
Republicans lost the 7th District when Peterson defeated embattled incumbent Republican Arlan Stangeland in 1990. Brodkorb says he thinks Peterson is in trouble.
"I think Collin Peterson is going to find himself going forward in the eye of a pretty serious storm," said Brodkorb. "First of all, the activist base is pretty seriously energized because of his statement. I think a lot of candidates that we've not had in the past are going to look toward this race."
How did that work out? In mid-October, MPR's Dan Gunderson reported that Observers say despite anti-incumbent mood, Peterson might see 11th term in 7th District. Peterson won that three way race with 55.20 percent of the vote to Byberg's 37.60 percent.
In 2012, he won with 60.38 percent to repeat candidate Byberg's 34.85 percent.
In 2014, when state senator Torrey Westrom was dubbed the GOP's best chance ever, Peterson took 54.21 percent in a straight-up two candidate contest.
What's up now in MN07?
Westrom is not raising funds for his federal committee (only $2355 has come in for the entire cycle) and is likely to defend his state senate seat.
The Independence Party might field a candidate, as we reported in MN07 Independence Party: non-profit hero Kevin Winge exploring challenge to Collin Peterson.
The Seventh District Republicans--so energized by their new state leadership team in 2009--do not appear to have yet recruited a candidate--or if they have, that person is pretty sneaky. They have had some killer social media, though, as we noted in a number of posts starting in early August:
- Minnesota 7th Congressional District Republican Party Facebook page warns fans about cilantro
- #MN07 GOP Party Facebook page deletes post calling George Soros a "Nazi National Socialist"
- Islamophobic comedy continues as MN07 GOP Facebook page shares another urban legend
- MN07 GOP Facebook page spreads pants on fire outrage over PBJ sandwich ban urban legend
- MN07 Republican social media maven detects Collin Peterson's creeping covert communism
- MN07 Republicans freak out over Halloween ban while Comrade Collin lures Miller on manly hunt
We've gone so far as to help our loyal opposition out with finding a candidate with our modest proposal to RPM state chair Keith Downey: run David Benson-Staebler in MN07.
In the meantime, Bluestem finds our selves taking comfort in the fact that only twenty-five percent of our fellow citizens on the wind-swept prairies of Minnesota's Seventh District were birthers in 2009. To engage in a bit of placebaiting for a moment, this makes us a bit more grounded than those La-La Landers in Congressman Nunes' district, nestled in Fresno and vicinity.
It's possible that the MN07 birther index has climbed to equal the number of wackadoodles in Nunes' turf, but as a devoted creeper of conservative social media in the area, we're not seeing it. Mostly.
Photo: Representative Collin Peterson, picking and grinning as a member of the Second Amendments, a rootin-tootin bipartisan congressional country cover band. Via Peterson for Congress. Peterson represents Minnesota's sprawling Seventh Congressional District, where people aren't nearly as obsessed with political urban legends as those in central California.
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