Despite millions of dollars spent and vigorous campaigning, Craig/Kistner race remains stubborn dead heat 


WASHINGTON — Rep. Angie Craig stated that “Republicans see their way to power running right through 2 District in Minnesota.”

Craig is a vulnerable U.S. House Democratic member. Her defeat by Tyler Kistner, a Republican, would allow the GOP to win additional seats – at most five – in order to take control of the chamber.

Craig’s rival agrees. Kistner stated, “You can’t control Congress without controlling the swing districts.”

Craig/Kistner’s 2020 rematch has been marked by attacks from both candidates and a torrent national Republican Party ads. This is a highly-priced House race.

It is unlikely that anyone would place a bet on this highly contested political race. The polling shows that the race is dead heat, despite millions of dollars spent on mudslinging and the mudslinging.

Craig narrowly beat Kistner in her 2020 race. She said she was expecting a hot race, and had been practicing for it.

She said, “I woke up in 2020 knowing that my next race would be a margin-of-error race.”

National Republican Party PACs spent over $12 million on attack ads against Craig. National Democrats have spent almost as much attacking Kistner.

They also attacked each other.

Craig accused Kistner, of using campaign funds for his personal use (he has received substantial reimbursements for using his personal vehicle for campaign purposes), lying about his stance on abortion, and misrepresenting the military career he had as a former Marine.

Kistner claims he has always supported life, except when it comes to rape and when a mother’s life is at risk. His campaign claims that Kistner’s military career has been misrepresented in an effort to promote the Republican candidate.

Kistner was a former Marine Ranger and served in four combat missions abroad while a TV ad for the House Republicans’ Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC ran briefly. The SEAL PAC is a political action group that aims to elect conservative veterans to Congress. It recently highlighted Kistner’s record of being an “Iraq War Combat Veteran.” Kistner, however, has only served in three overseas missions.

Billy Grant, a consultant to the Kistner campaign, stated that “we don’t control those groups.” He stated that the campaign was determined to remove misleading advertisements “right away.”

However, the SEAL PAC advertisement ran for 15 days before being taken down Oct. 25.

Kistner supported the Minnesota Republican Party in accusing Craig of sending a tax-payer-funded mailing. He claimed Craig was too politically-oriented and it was sent during a “blackout” period of 60 days before the election.

The mailer was approved by a bipartisan House committee and appears to not have been sent during the blackout period.

Kistner’s campaign also accuses Craig of using fake Republicans to endorse her in her campaign ads.

Craig’s ad featured a man who spoke highly of her efforts to lower drug prices. The man claimed to be a “lifelong Republican”, but Kistner’s campaign stated that he voted in 2020 Democratic presidential primaries. However, Craig’s campaign provided a card with his name on it that identified him as a member of the Minnesota GOP.

Kistner also stated that Craig’s supporter resides outside of the 2 nd district. Craig’s campaign claimed that the supporter was redistricted from her district in this year. The television advertisement is now inactive.

Kistner also attempted to tie Craig to an unpopular member her party, such as President Joe Biden or Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif).

Democrats including Craig have shifted to accusing GOP opponents, who seem to be calming voter anger at the Supreme Court’s decision to allow abortion to continue, of trying to reduce Medicare and Social Security, long considered third rails in American politics.

A voiceover claims that Kistner wants the age to be eligible for Medicare and Social Security in an ad by Craig. The GOP’s “Commitment To America” campaign blueprint was vague about Social Security and Medicare. It simply stated that the party would “save” and “strengthen” these programs. The Republican Study Committee, a powerful group of House Republicans is promoting a plan to raise Medicare eligibility to 67. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) has presented a plan that would require Congress that it vote every five years to renew Medicare and Social Security.

Kistner said that he does not want changes to popular programs, but that the ad showed “what a failing campaign looks like.” Voters in 2 nd District can choose between a centrist Democrat or a conservative Republican.

The fight to the end

Craig has been a fighter for local police funding, and she has received endorsements from law enforcement officers. She distanced herself from Biden and said that the Democratic Party needed a new generation leadership.

This included pushing for a $35 limit on insulin prices. However, this was only a partial victory since the Inflation Reduction Act only established the cap for Medicare beneficiaries.

Craig also asked Democratic House leaders for votes on legislation to prohibit members of Congress trading stocks. The effort was thwarted by Democratic leaders who expanded the ban to include members of Congress, the Supreme Court, and other federal workers.

Kistner is now a supporter of the House GOP agenda which calls for tax cuts, reductions in government spending, and is actively campaigning on the “bread-and- butter” issue inflation. In the weeks leading up to the election, rising costs for food, gas and nearly all consumer goods have been a major concern of voters and have helped GOP candidates across the country gain traction.

Kistner stated, “I am raising the issues that face the majority of Minnesotans.” “Minnesota temperatures have dropped while energy prices have risen,” Kistner said.

Craig estimates that one third of the district’s residents are Democrats and one third are Republicans. Most of the rest, Craig says, are unaffiliated.

Paula Overby of Legal Marijuana Now will be on the ballot. She died last month. This is a disturbing recurrence of Adam Weeks’ death, the Legal Marijuana Now candidate for the 2 District seat in 2020. He died just before the election but was still on the ballot on Election Day. Weeks received about 6% of votes in this very close election.

Although it is not certain whether Overby will get as much support in 2020 as Weeks, any votes for Weeks will have an impact on the outcome.

There are many other factors that can also make a difference.

Paula Overby of Legal Marijuana Now will be on the ballot even though she has already died.

Andra Gillespie, Emory University political scientist, said that “this is the kind of district where turnout really matters.”

Craig reached out to other Democrats in the last weeks of his campaign for assistance. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a progressive firebrand, was active in the Trump impeachment trial trials and the January 6 Committee investigating storming the U.S. Capitol. Craig also invited Douglas Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala, to visit the district to run for her.

She stated that she hopes those fellow Democrats will help to energize the party’s base. She also targets younger voters.

Craig stated, “If young people turnout, I will win the race.”

Kistner has been supported by U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (Republican from Tenn). He stated that he is spending the last few days reaching out personally to 2 and District residents in order to thank them for their support.

Kistner stated that “What it comes down to is meeting voters face-to-face and discussing the issues.”

The negative ads on the airwaves could turn off voters in races where turnout is key, however.

‘Ideological sorting’

Gillespie stated that Craig and Kistner run neck-and-neck for a variety of reasons.

Redistricting has largely divided the country’s congressional districts into safe Democratic strongholds and safe Republican strongholds. This has left far fewer swing districts such as the 2 nd district, which has been represented by both Democrats, and Republicans, in Congress.

Gillespie also believes in the phenomenon of “ideological kinding,” which is when the Democratic Party appeals to progressives and liberals, while the Republican Party appeals to conservatives. This resulted in the demise of many conservative Democrats, liberal Republicans, and many centrists.

Gillespie stated, “It is the middle that’s now shaky.” “Everyone predicts that Democrats will lose seats at the U.S. House, and those most likely to lose are Democratic moderates.”

Andra Gillespie
Andra Gillespie

Craig’s defeat and those of other threatened Democrats in the Nov. 8 elections (most of whom are centrists) would result in the party moving further to the left.

Kyle Kondik, University of Virginia Center for Politics, stated that “often what happens in midterms is that the moderate members – which also tend to be the ones who occupy the most marginal seats – end up losing.”

Craig’s latest campaign ad states that she fights her party over issues such as police funding. She also works in a bipartisan manner and asks district voters for their support. She is aware of the obstacles she faces.

She said, “My eyes are wide open heading towards the finish line.”

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