ST. PAUL — Former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach received the Republican party’s endorsement to take on longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson with hopes to flip western Minnesota's 7th Congressional District red and out the chairman of House Agriculture Committee.
During the six-hour virtual convention Saturday morning, May 2, Fischbach, who served as lieutenant governor from 2018 to 2019, defeated Maj. Dave Hughes, who lost to Peterson in the 2016 and 2018 elections by 5 and 4 percentage points, respectively.
The win didn’t come without hurdles, however, as concerns were raised on numerous occasions about the number of votes cast in each ballot during the convention. After the sixth ballot, a motion was brought forth to declare no endorsement because Fischbach failed to reach the 60% threshold.
The motion was shut down 81-19, with balloting continuing to determine an endorsement.
After each ballot, both Fischbach and Hughes were allotted two minutes each to speak, persuading delegates to their cause.
“I think I’m ready to serve you well in Congress,” Hughes said, “and I’m not so sure Michelle is.”
Fischach had no direct response, but continued to share her beliefs and reasons why she believed she was the candidate to get behind.
“It is easy to forget what it's all about,” Fischbach said, regarding the lengthy endorsement process. “What this is all about is beating Collin Peterson and getting rid of socialist Nancy Pelosi.”
On the eighth ballot, Fischbach was determined the winner, receiving 65% of the votes compared to Hughes' 35%, earning the party's endorsement over a flurry of challengers.
Other candidates up for endorsement included Noel Collis, Jayesun Sherman and Joel Novak, all vying to take down Peterson, a 28-year incumbent who began his tenure by defeating seven-time incumbent Arlan Stangeland in 1990.
The race to represent District 7 has gained notoriety due to the landslide victory President Donald Trump had over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. Trump won the district by 30.8 points, making District 7 the district with the strongest support for Trump compared to other districts with a House Democrat.
Republicans feel this could be the year the district is finally flipped, with political forecasters such as Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball changing their rating on the race from “leans left” to “tossup.”
Fischbach, who was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 1996, became the state’s first female Senate president. She announced her bid for the seat on Sept. 2 and got a boost when she was endorsed by Trump via tweet on March 2.
Michelle @FischbachMN7 is running for Congress in Minnesota. Michelle will protect the unborn, is Strong on Crime & Borders, Cutting Taxes, your #2A, Loves our Military, Vets, & will stand w/ our Great Farmers. Michelle has my Complete & Total Endorsement! https://t.co/qwz5F64dQn
Michelle @FischbachMN7 is running for Congress in Minnesota. Michelle will protect the unborn, is Strong on Crime & Borders, Cutting Taxes, your #2A, Loves our Military, Vets, & will stand w/ our Great Farmers. Michelle has my Complete & Total Endorsement! https://t.co/qwz5F64dQn— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2020
That endorsement seemed to work, with Fischbach edging out Hughes and putting an end the 21-year Air Force Veteran's run atop the republican ticket.
“I just want to say thank you. I sincerely appreciate all the support,” Fischbach said in a statement following the win.
The race will surely heat up from here, as Peterson, a Fargo native and a member of the Minnesota State Senate from 1987-1997, announced his reelection bid March 6.
A two-time House Agriculture chairman, Peterson is one of the few rural Democrats left, with each of his election wins shrinking since 2014. Minnesota Republicans hope the district will help the state itself turn red in 2020, something that hasn't happened since 1972.
"You have to win in order to affect change," Fischbach said. "We have to bring everyone together in order to reach our goal of defeating Collin Peterson."
Fischbach, who now resides in the Paynesville, Minn., area with her husband, received her Bachelor of Arts from St. Cloud State and her Juris Doctor degree from William Mitchell College of Law.
“We are going to get this done,” Fischbach said. “This year is our year to reelect President Trump, defeat Collin Peterson and turn Minnesota’s 7th District red.”
The Republican primary is set for Aug. 11, before the general election Nov. 3.