Gonzales

Walz’s Governor Run Creates Vulnerable Open Seat for Democrats

But Minnesota DFL may still have a chance to hold on

Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz is vacating his 1st District in order to run for governor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It could be a rough round of midterm elections for Republicans next year but Democratic-Farmer-Labor Rep. Tim Walz gave them a little gift by vacating Minnesota’s 1st District in order to run for governor.

The six-term congressman won re-election narrowly, 50.3-49.6 percent, last fall in a race that received little national attention. But Donald Trump simultaneously carried the rural district, 53-38 percent over Hillary Clinton and nearly dragged Walz’s GOP opponent across the finish line.

Walz’s absence gives Republicans a solid takeover opportunity. We’re changing the Inside Politics with Nathan L. Gonzales race rating from Lean Democratic to Toss-Up.

Walz, who first revealed his decision to the (Rochester) Post-Bulletin, told Roll Call recently that he wasn’t worried about his party losing the seat and that Trump voters were already feeling disaffected.

But Democrats will need a lot of Trump voters to be disaffected considering the GOP presidential nominee carried the district by 15 points. And even if 2016 was an aberration, President Barack Obama only carried it by a 50-48 percent margin over Mitt Romney in 2012, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections.

Even though the district is competitive, it could be the right cycle for Walz to leave and still give his party an opportunity to succeed him. The president’s party has lost seats in 18 of the last 20 midterm elections, with an average of 33 seats lost in those 18 cycles, so the political climate could favor Democrats across the country. They need a net gain of 24 seats to retake the House majority.

Roll Call’s Simone Pathé listed Walz campaign manager and former state Rep. Terry Morrow as a potential DFL contender, as well as state Rep. Tina Liebling. On the Republican side, last year’s nominee Jim Hagedorn is running again.

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