House: Oberstar, Walz, Bachmann ahead early

Published 9:38 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Three Minnesota U.S. House members seen as most vulnerable were leading in early election returns Tuesday, while four incumbents were easily re-elected.

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann had a comfortable lead over Democrat Tarryl Clark in the Twin Cities-and-St. Cloud-area 6th District. Democratic Reps. Jim Oberstar in northeastern Minnesota and Tim Walz in southern Minnesota both had early leads over their Republican opponents, Chip Cravaack in Oberstar’s 8th District and Randy Demmer in Walz’s 1st District.

Four incumbents were easily re-elected: Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum in St. Paul and Keith Ellison in Minneapolis, and Republican Reps. Erik Paulsen and John Kline, both from the Twin Cities suburbs.

The Bachmann-Clark race, which included Independence Party candidate Bob Anderson, is this year’s most expensive House race nationwide.

In the suburb of Afton, east of St. Paul, 24-year-old unemployed security consultant Danielle Gagner said she would have voted for anyone who ran against Bachmann.

“With her record, I’m very disappointed in her,” Gagner said. “She blows my mind. I feel like she has a lot of Palin-isms. She seems to me to be very ignorant.”

Bachmann and Clark raised more than $15 million between them, most by Bachmann, a tea party favorite who cultivated a national base in part through frequent appearances on national cable shows. Clark tried to turn that to an advantage by attacking Bachmann as more concerned with her ambition than her constituents.

But Josh Kinsky, a 24-year-old salesman, said he thought Clark ran the more negative race. He said he’s concerned about government spending and deficits and found Bachmann the better choice on those issues.

“She only has so much she can work with,” Kinsky said.

In northeastern Minnesota, Democrat Oberstar has never gotten less than 59 percent of the vote, and had a long history of bringing largesse to the district even before he became House transportation chairman. But Cravaack built momentum by portraying Oberstar as out of touch with the district and complicit in federal overspending.

Walz’s district is a swing district with a recent history of turning out incumbents. Walz rode to office on a Democratic wave in 2006 by ousting a 12-year Republican incumbent. Now Demmer is trying to sweep the 1st District back into GOP hands.

Northwest Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson was also favored for re-election.