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Politics

DFL has set its sights on Rep. John Kline's seat

John Kline

When the new political maps came out, Democrats rejoiced that they had a better chance than ever to knock off Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.

Article by: RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER , Star Tribune

Updated: April 3, 2012 - 9:20 PM

When the new political maps came out, Democrats rejoiced that they had a better chance than ever to knock off Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.

Just one problem: They lacked a Democratic candidate to take on the five-term Republican congressman, who won his last election by nearly 30 percentage points and has about $1 million in the bank.

But attorney and former state Rep. Mike Obermueller, who narrowly lost his re-election bid two years ago, on Tuesday said he is stepping forward to take on the challenge. He joins two others -- Northfield City Council Member Patrick Ganey and Dakota County Commissioner Kathleen Gaylord -- who are reportedly eyeing Kline's seat.

"I want to represent the people of Minnesota in Congress. That's been a long-term dream of mine," said Obermueller, of Eagan. He acknowledged that DFLers have waged an "uphill battle" to win Kline's seat.

Kline has done well in all his re-election bids. In 2010, his DFL opponent, Shelley Madore, garnered only $89,000 in contributions to Kline's $1.5 million, and she lost by 27 points. He had double-digit wins in his previous bids, too.

But the new political maps produced by the courts in February gave opponents more hope that Kline's south suburban and rural district, which includes a southeastern swath of Minnesota from Dakota County to Wabasha County and over to Scott and Rice counties, could turn in their favor. Although the district may favor Republicans, it did pick up some areas that favor the DFL.

Already, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has starting hitting Kline for his vote last week for the GOP-sponsored budget. The interest from an outside group, although small in spending, is more than the district saw two years ago. According to the Federal Election Commission, independent groups spent nothing to influence votes in the last cycle.

Obermueller said that Kline's vote inspired him to formally announce his run.

"The priorities are wrong," he said. "I think we can win that race that's down there. It's going to take a lot of hard work, but I think I'm up to the challenge."

He also said that although he personally opposed some provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the federal health care overhaul now being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, he believes it contained many much-needed changes and would like the opportunity to work on the parts he finds less palatable.

Obermueller said that he plans to abide by the DFL Party's April 28 endorsement, which means he would drop out if activists do not support him at their convention.

The Kline campaign declined to comment about Obermueller's campaign.

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @rachelsb

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