By Josh Moniz
The Mankato Free Press
---- — MANKATO — The 2014 election is still more than a year away, but Minnesota's 1st Congressional District is already buzzing with campaign activity.
Walz targeted over shutdown
The National Republican Congressional Committee has been pushing a barrage of critical press releases, radio ads, web ads and robo-calls in the district accusing U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of prioritizing protecting the Affordable Care Act over funding veterans, cancer research and even nuclear security.
The move to criticize the Mankato Democrat is part of the NRCC's targeting of 10 Democrat-controlled U.S. House districts it considers vulnerable this election. Significant activity has been noted in Rochester, but it has been largely absent from the Mankato market with no local radio ads purchases.
The messaging is interesting because a sticking point in the debate leading up to the federal government shutdown was Republican lawmakers adding provisions requiring defunding or delays of the Affordable Care Act in each funding resolution. It also plays into the larger messaging war occurring between the Republican and Democrat parties.
The NRCC campaign even created a minor incident during a House Veteran Affairs hearing last Wednesday on the shutdown's impact on veterans. Walz rebuked Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Texas, during the hearing for accusing Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, of not caring about veterans nor the VA.
“That’s beneath this Congress and certainly beneath this committee to question a commitment to veterans,” Walz said.
In a later interview, Walz said he demanded Huelskamp apologize because he brought politics into "a non-partisan committee" that "focuses on actually getting things done."
Later in the hearing, Walz blamed the shutdown on both sides focusing too much on campaigning during every step. He said he does not believe Huelskamp is against veterans because of his statement but noted he was accused of abandoning veterans by the NRCC the moment he made a thoughtful vote on a funding resolution. The NRCC ran an 11-second web video of Walz's statement that day, accusing him of "complaining."
Walz, who is a vet, has made support of veteran affairs a hallmark of his campaigns.
Walz said he will not vote for funding resolutions except for "clean resolutions" without any additional provisions. He said he opposes requiring political votes to pass "basic government operations."
The NRCC's decision to target Walz is interesting since he was upgraded from at risk to strongly safe during last year's election. This year, the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating has label the district "Safely Democrat."
Senjem considers run
The big news this week was rumors of state Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, joining the 1st District race. He served as Senate Majority Leader during the Republican control of the state Legislature last year.
Senjem said he was completely caught off guard by the rumors but is open to the idea. However, he said he would not run unless the national party signaled strong support for him and polling showed him matching up favorably against Walz.
Libertarian Party to meet
The Libertarian Party of Minnesota will seek to make their presence known this week by hosting a 1st District “meetup” at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Fillin' Station Coffeehouse on Riverfront Drive. The group is seeking to become a major party. It bills itself as a “fiscally responsible, socially accepting peace party” that emphasizes libertarian ideals. More information on the group is available at: http://www.lpmn.org/