In a year of raucous primary contests, among Minnesota Republicans one race was unquestionably the main show- the 7th Congressional District Republican primary. With 3 main candidates (and a grand total of 5), the primary race to take on House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson was the MNGOP’s largest and most expensive by far.
After receiving President Trump’s endorsement in early March and clinching the Republican endorsement through virtual convention in early May, former Lt. Governor Michelle Fischbach was always the frontrunner. In the month of May, between the CD7 convention and the filing deadline in early June, there was a window where many Republican operatives were hopeful that the other candidates would drop out and allow an early consolidation behind Fischbach.
Despite this, the underfunded 2016/2018 nominee Dave Hughes and self-funding proctologist Noel Collis decided to press on into the open August Republican primary. On paper the two other candidates seemed formidable at the outset in early Summer. Dave Hughes was the underfunded Republican nominee the last two cycles for this district and Noel Collis, who ultimately self-funded $800,000 and was loudly promoting himself as a self-financed candidate since the beginning of the year.
As is often the case in Minnesota Republican primaries, the affair went underexposed in the Twin Cities press (who were primarily fixated on the multimillion dollar Ilhan Omar Democrat primary) and ended up largely being waged at Republican voters’ mailboxes, doors, and TV screens. Michelle Fischbach waged a coordinated, thrifty primary effort billing herself as the credible conservative that she is- endorsed by President Trump, the Minnesota GOP, and a host of Republican leaders across western Minnesota.
Entertainingly, Collis, at the purported advice of his campaign consultant Axiom Strategies, chose to heavily advertise his background as a proctologist. In ads that perplexed, repulsed, and even frightened voters across Minnesota he expressed excitement over giving a patient an unnecessary colonoscopy, pledged to give a colonoscopy to Washington, and promoted social media posts where he threatened to give colonoscopies to statues. What his media campaign lacked in quality creative it tried to make up for in raw tonnage, Collis outspent Fischbach 3:1 on television, lining the pockets of his consulting firm and going big on the gamble of tripling down on bad messaging.
In the end, Fischbach blew past most observers’ expectations, winning the primary by 36.63% in a crowded field where she trailed in primary spending. The geography of her primary win in the sprawling, 38 county 7th District is a good roadmap to a general election victory against Democrat Collin Peterson. If Fischbach can consolidate Republican trending areas along the I-94 corridor and Fargo suburbs, and blow the doors off in the Twin Cities exurbs and southern farming portions of Southeastern Minnesota, she will be in a good position to defeat the 30 year incumbent Peterson. In the wake of the primary, Fischbach is poised to be one of national Republican’s best pickup opportunities in the Congress this cycle.