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Peterson off to Copenhagen, retire rumors

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL-7th District, who took a lot of heat during a Bemidji town hall hearing in August on his vote for the House climate change bill, is apparently headed to Copenhagen, the site of a world global climate summit.

The National Republican Congressional Caucus is also putting out rumors that Peterson, elected in 1990, might not seek re-election in 2010. But the probable res-ponse is: "Don't they wish."

Washington, D.C.'s The Hill reported Thursday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is lining up a delegation to travel to the Denmark summit.

"Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, plan to attend. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who was something of a headache for Democratic leaders in pressing for farm-friendly provisions in the climate bill before the House vote, is also expected to attend," The Hill's Molly Hooper reports.

NRCC spokesman Tom Erickson said Thursday that Peterson was key in cutting a deal that allowed the cap-and-trade policy to proceed, a carbon reduction policy and something NRCC is calling the National Energy Tax. That move angered Minnesota's ag community, which opposes cap and trade.

"As if selling out Minnesota's ag community with his National Energy Tax wasn't enough, Collin Peterson is heading to Copenhagen to lend a hand in crafting a global climate change treaty. Given Peter-son's track record as Nancy Pelosi's puppet on global warming, Greater Minnesota farmers better hold onto their wallets and hope that Peterson doesn't cut another deal that will make it even harder for them to make ends meet," said Erickson.

He also pointed out two other sources -- CQ-Roll Call and MinnPost -- are taking a look at Peterson's decision to put off announcing his 2010 plans until February. "The fact that Peterson won't commit to running again until next year speaks volumes about his openness to joining Reps. Dennis Moore, John Tanner and Brian Baird in passing on a 2010 re-election bid," Erickson said.

But taking a look at Eric Black's piece in MinnPost, one finds the headline, "Repubs hope to convince Collin Peterson to retire." That's a different twist.

"The National Republican Congressional Committee has a list of 17 Dem House incum-bents that it hopes to push into retirement and Minne-sota's Collin Peterson is on the list," Black writes. "This strikes me as highly unlikely but here's the rationale, ac-cording to the always friendly and helpful Tom Erickson, spokester for the NRCC in our region (and former Norm Coleman spokester)."

Black lays out the NRCC strategy as noting that Peter-son has not been aggressively fundraising, even though as Ag Committee chairman, he could demand large sums. In the last quarter he actually spent more than he raised, and gave some to other Dems, a usual sign of a member get-ting ready to retire. Erickson also theorizes that Peterson, at age 65, is in the best pos-ition to grab a high-power D.C. job with the Dems in power. He's also vulnerable, Erickson says, for a gaffe he made saying he doesn't like holding town hall meetings because "conspiracy nuts" show up.

Black does go on to debunk Erickson's thinking, which isn't hard to do.

Peterson has held a virtual lock on the western Minnesota seat for years, with no Republican cutting into his 65 percent average victory margin since 1994. As a result, he's always been lackadaisical about campaigning. He always waits until near filing time to say if he's going again, and doesn't make a big deal out of it.

He raises campaign funds, but doesn't work at it. He makes very few media buys during the campaign (mostly radio spots), and frankly hasn't needed to spend much to out power his weak opposition.

Peterson's told me that the farm bill he worked so hard for is now law, but the hard part is seeing provisions of the bill implemented correctly. And he wants to bring the U.S. Agriculture Department up to 21st century technology, all which spells another term and another go at Ag Committee chairman.

CQ-Roll Call reports that "Peterson, who won his 7th district seat with 72 percent of the vote in 2008, told CQ-Roll Call Wednesday that he has filed his paperwork for a run, but that he never makes 'a final decision until February. ... I'm not doing anything different,' he said."

As for the climate change bill, Peterson says he demanded three concessions to help the ag community and he got them all, so he had to politically support the bill. What he wants to get out of the Copenhagen trip is anybody's guess, maybe just to load up on lutefisk for the holidays ...

Brad Swenson is the Bemidji Pioneer's Opinion page/political editor.