I take special interest in the three congressional districts that constitute the historical, theoretical State of Superior. Naturally, there’s my home district of MN-08 (represented by Jim Oberstar, a Democrat). But so too do I make casual note of northern Wisconsin’s WI-07 (Dave Obey, whose been in congress even longer than Oberstar) and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s MI-01 (Bart Stupak, of “Stupak Twelve and/or Seven” fame). The State of Superior is the state that, had mapmakers and politicians gotten it right in the 1830s, would today be a sky-tinted, deeply forested, heavily mined purple state that would corner the market on fresh water in 2035 and have all the iPods it wants forever. The dream lives on.
Anyway, Michigan’s Stupak retired last month and today Rep. Obey, 71, announces his retirement. These three guys — Obestar, Obey and Stupak — all represent a unique part of the Democratic coalition. All are pro-life and pro-gun and have turned light blue or toss-up districts into impenetrable Democratic fortresses. It’s fair to assume that the heavy headwinds of a more conservative election cycle pushed Stupak and Obey toward their retirement decision, but it’s also foolish to think that these districts are “gimmees” for the Republicans. I think it’d be fair to call them both “too close to call” right now.
Note to my fellow Minnesota “Fightin’ Eighthers” — be you of Democratic or Republican stripes — Oberstar is not retiring this year but when he does in some to several years the news will drop exactly like this. How comfortable are you with the organization and candidate bench you have now? Long serving representatives like these three gentleman have their political advantages, but one of the drawbacks is the difficulty in calling up a battle ready campaign on short notice.
I don’t subscribe to the notion that Minnesota’s Eighth will become a pure tossup when Oberstar goes, merely that it will become a lighter blue with opportunity for both parties. There are institutional factors that make MN-08 more Democratic. The GOP might have an opportunity to win WI-07 or MI-01 this year, but mostly because those districts are more like Minnesota’s present Iron Range in a “worst case scenario” 30 years from now, with the young families boiled away and an even higher retiree population. Nevertheless, redistricting and more favorable Democratic climates of the future will make these districts fun to watch for the next decade, or until my State of Superior dreams come true.
Seriously, we’ll have all the fresh water and minerals.