After Bachmann shake-up, Peterson mum on future

MARSHALL – The bombshell dropped this week by Republican U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann has made some people who follow politics speculate as to the future of 7th District Congressman Collin Peterson. To that, Peterson told the Independent on Thursday, Bachmann’s decision really hasn’t changed the way he makes his plans.

A veteran DFLer in the state’s second most conservative district, Peterson said he is in the process of raising money for a potential campaign, but hasn’t committed to another term just yet.

“There’s always speculation about me; they’re trying to run a campaign against me to try to get me to retire,” he said. “It’s actually making me more inclined not to retire. But I never decided until January or February of an election year.”

Peterson, who turns 69 next month, said he “needs to see where things are at” in early 2014 before making his final decision on whether or not to run again and whether or not his presence in Washington will be beneficial for the country and his district.

Peterson hasn’t been challenged much since he was first elected in 1990. He withstood a strong Republican wave in 2010 by defeating Willmar businessman Lee Byberg by 18 percentage points. That race was, however, one of the closest Peterson has been involved in. In 2012, Peterson won over Byberg with just over 60 percent of the votes.

Peterson said he’s unsure of how Bachmann’s departure will affect Minnesota and the 6th District. He said Republicans might actually be buoyed by Bachmann’s absence, considering all the fallout from her brief presidential run. Her gaffes and missteps, he said, allowed DFL businessman Jim Graves to come close to winning the last election in the state’s most Republican-leaning district.

“There was a lot of backlash against her because of the presidential thing, her missing all those votes, spending so much time in Iowa – that stuff didn’t go over too big,” said Peterson. “I think that was part of the issue from what I can tell.”

Peterson said Bachmann’s polling “looked pretty bad,” and that she would’ve been easier to defeat in the next election because she was so publicly damaged.

“It’s a tough district,” Peterson said of the 6th. “Some people think it might be easier for another Republican to win. If you’ve got a strong Republican candidate that unites the party, a fresh face, it might make it more difficult for a DFLer. It’s hard to say right now.”

Peterson, the lead Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, also said Thursday he’s confident a farm bill will get passed this year.

“It’s coming up again the week of the 17th, we’re going to the floor,” he said. “(Republican House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank) Lucas and I are very much in agreement on everything. We’re going to stick together and hopefully it will pass, but it’s not going to be easy. But we have come up with a compromise, and we’ll stick together.”

Peterson said some right-wing Republicans might have a hard time voting for the farm bill even though they come from farming districts and that even though the ones demanding higher food stamp cuts could get what they want they still might opt to not support the bill.

A handful of amendments to the farm bill received votes in late May before the Memorial Day recess. As of May 23, the Senate had voted on nine amendments. Nearly 200 amendments have been filed, and more could follow before the Senate completes consideration of the farm bill.