Open Minnesota House Seat Takeover Opportunity for Democrats

Lackluster candidates in moderate district could be one of first GOP House seats to change hands

The retirement of Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., shown hugging Janna Ryan after Rep. Paul Ryan was sworn in as House Speaker last year, makes his seat a big target for Democrats. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Rep. John Kline is retiring  from his competitive, suburban district in Minnesota and expressed concern over the lack of quality GOP candidates to replace him. Those concerns are becoming reality as the seat continues to develop into a prime Democratic takeover opportunity.  

In 2014, Kline was re-elected by 17 points, but his margin of victory made the 2nd District look less competitive than reality, considering President Barack Obama won the district twice, albeit narrowly.  

On May 9, Minnesota Republicans formally endorsed former conservative radio talk show host Jason Lewis . Other Republicans still have an opportunity to knock off Lewis in the Aug. 9 primary, but it looks unlikely.  

[Mini Trumps Sound Like the Nominee] Kline endorsed businesswoman Darlene Miller, but her campaign hasn’t come together as some of her supporters and race observers expected. Former state Sen. John Howe loaned his campaign more than $600,000 through the end of March, but there isn’t any other evidence he is putting together the campaign necessary to overcome the party endorsement.  

Lewis is potentially problematic for Republicans, not just because he is a conservative in a moderate district, but because he has a couple decades of talk shows and writings to be picked apart. For example, in the early stages of the race, he faced criticism for some comments he made about single women and birth control in 2012.  

But beyond that, Lewis just hasn’t been a good candidate. He had just $111,000 in the bank on March 31, adding to some earlier concerns that the talk show host wouldn’t transition to becoming a candidate particularly well.  

[Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call race ratings map] Meanwhile, the Minnesota DFL is poised to nominate former St. Jude Medical executive Angie Craig. She is probably to the left of the district in her ideology, but she has a good story to tell, is raising considerable money (she had $1.3 million in the bank at the end of March) and is solid as a candidate.  

Under the current local and national circumstances, we’re changing the   Rothenberg &   Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rating from Pure Tossup to Tossup/Tilt Democratic , putting another GOP-held district into the Democrats' column. Democrats need to gain 30 seats for a majority and Minnesota’s 2nd should be one of the first to fall.  

A full, initial analysis of the 2nd District, candidates, and race was featured in the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report .  

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.