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Peterson cruises to 11th term in Congress

Bucking a midterm wave that unseated Democrats in many similar right-leaning districts, Rep. Collin Peterson was heading toward winning an 11th term to Congress on Tuesday.

With 1,215 of 1,254 precincts in the 7th District reporting, about 25 percent, Peterson was topping Republican challenger Lee Byberg by a margin of 18 percentage points. Peterson had 127,986 votes, or 55.53 percent, to Byberg's 85,779 votes, or 37.22 percent.

A 20-year veteran of Congress, Peterson is likely to again represent the state's largest district - a mostly rural, 35-county swath of western Minnesota that includes Moorhead and Clay County.

Given the national trend, Peterson said it was gratifying to win. But he wasn't surprised, he said.

"I never really was worried we'd be defeated," he said, citing national networks declaring him the winner.

He'll return to a changed political landscape, as he will lose the chairmanship of the House Agriculture committee when the GOP comes to power in January.

The former accountant from Detroit Lakes had said writing the newest version of the farm bill in the 2011-12 session of Congress was a top priority, in particular $500 million for floodwater retention he wants it to include.

Peterson said losing the top post could actually free him up to be a better advocate for local interests like the sugar industry.

"Frankly, I can be more parochial," he said.

Peterson appeared to beat a trio of conservatives who made fiscal frugality a campaign focus.

As of 11 p.m., Peterson had 53 percent of the vote to Byberg's 40 percent. At 3 percent were both Glen Menze of the Independence Party and Glen Waldorf, an independent candidate.

Congress members make $174,000 annually.