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Forum Communications Candidate Endorsement: Collin Peterson

Congressman Collin Peterson hasn't had a close race in Minnesota's 7th District since 1994. Sometimes he merely overwhelmed a bad opponent, but not always. Peterson has won handily because the voters of the 7th identify with him. They might not agree with every public-policy position he takes, but they know he is one of them. They know his roots and his heart are in the district. They know that despite two decades in the U.S. House of Representatives, the people of the 7th, not Washington, come first.

His genuine appeal crosses party lines. A self-defined conservative Democrat, he's been described by Congress-watchers as a "free spirit" or a "maverick." His record confirms the monikers. He adheres to party line when it's good for his constituents, rejects the line when it's not good for the 7th. He routinely gives the local Democratic left fits because he's anything but a dogmatic liberal. He confounds the Republican hierarchy in his district because rank-and-file Republicans often like what he accomplishes. When the incumbent Democratic congressman routinely wins with 70 percent of the vote, a lot of Republicans are voting for him.

Peterson is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. His fingerprints are all over the current farm bill; farmers like it. He is preparing to write provisions of a new bill, the fallout from which will affect agriculture for years. Peterson's influence on the process cannot be minimized. He understands production agriculture and dairy farming of the kind practiced in northwestern Minnesota. He intends to include in the new bill funding for Red River Valley water-retention flood control. Even if the House flips and Democrats no longer are in the majority, Peterson will be ranking member on the committee and well-positioned to secure the retention money.

Challenger Lee Byberg, a businessman from Willmar, is as passionate a candidate as Peterson has ever faced. Byberg is convinced the nation is on the wrong path regarding deficits and spending, and further says Peterson is part of the problem. Byberg has been working hard all over the sprawling district to get his message to voters.

Byberg is right about debt and spending. Peterson shares that sentiment. But Byberg's message is a one-note anti-government recipe that seems fueled by his apparent anger over personal experiences with regulation, taxes and perceived conspiracies to undermine small businesses. When asked where and how government should cut spending and eliminate regulation, he generalizes.

The U.S. House is about representative government. Peterson asks his constituents every two years to either confirm or reject his representation. They have consistently sent him back to Congress. He's earned their trust and their votes. They should re-elect him on Nov. 2.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.