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Guest Editorial: Dems should look to Collin Peterson, not Keith Ellison

The national Democratic Party is looking to the wrong Minnesotan to restore the party to power.

North Dakota Democrats should learn from Washington's mistake, and ask the right Minnesotan — Congressman Collin Peterson of Detroit Lakes — for advice.

Nationally, Democrats are considering Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., to chair the Democratic National Committee. But Ellison represents Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District. That geographically tiny district consists of Minneapolis and a few suburbs, and is "far and away the most Democratic district in the state," as Wikipedia notes.

Ellison shows this. He ranks near the top on lists of most liberal members of Congress, and near the bottom on lists of members who support bipartisan legislation.

But consider: the Democrats lost the presidency in large part because of swing voters. Furthermore, the party's future depends on picking up House seats, Senate seats, state legislative seats and governorships in swing and Red states.

Given those facts, why would the party trust its strategy to a politician who speaks only blue?

Now, we're not proposing Peterson for party chair. He wouldn't want the job, anyway. But we are saying that more than any other sitting congressman, Peterson has shown the ability to attract and hold swing votes.

Which means Peterson's strategy works in exactly the ways that Democrats need.

Consider:

In a remarkable development, Minnesota's political map has come to look a lot like America's, with Democrats concentrating in cities, and the rural areas (with the notable exception of the Iron Range) turning various shades of red.

And in northwestern Minnesota, that red is downright crimson. In November, Republicans flipped three state Senate seats in the region, key wins that helped give the party a state Senate majority. Meanwhile, Donald Trump took every county west of Minnesota's centerline by vote totals ranging from around 50 to nearly 70 percent.

And yet, DFLer Peterson got re-elected, even though every county in his vast congressional district voted for Trump.

Peterson himself isn't shy about speaking out. "There's no question that Trump got elected because of rural America," he told the Washington Post last month.

"And our party still is in denial. They don't get it. ... (And) a lot of it is backlash against all this political correctness that's going on. That's what I hear from people, and I was hearing that before the election, too.

"They don't like the government telling them what to do or telling them how to live their lives. They think [the government is] coddling people, like when people's feelings are hurt at the colleges and they send somebody in to make them feel better. Stuff like that drives (voters here) crazy."

Rest assured, Keith Ellison is not going to offer that advice. National and North Dakota Democrats should take note, and start heeding the lifetime Dem whose success with swing voters shows he has what it takes.—Tom Dennis for the Grand Forks Herald

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