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Associated Press, Published November 06 2012

8th District race tops list of Minnesota house matchups

MINNEAPOLIS — Democrat Rick Nolan's attempt to take back a northeastern Minnesota House seat his party lost in an upset two years ago topped the list of congressional races being decided in the state on Tuesday.

Rep. Chip Cravaack was considered the most vulnerable of Minnesota's House Republicans as he tried for a second term two years after a surprise win over an 18-term Democratic incumbent. The 8th District race attracted national attention and millions in outside spending as Nolan tried to make a political comeback more than three decades after leaving Congress.

Cravaack was counting on his union past and pro-labor votes to keep the support of blue-collar voters in a socially conservative region.

Minnesota's House delegation is currently split between four Republicans and four Democrats.

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann faced a tougher than expected challenge from Democratic businessman Jim Graves in the northern and western suburbs and St. Cloud area. For the first time since Bachmann won her seat in 2006, there was no Independence Party candidate to siphon support from her challenger. But Bachmann, the tea party favorite and former GOP presidential hopeful, was helped by a new political map that made the 6th District even more conservative.

In the southern Twin Cities suburbs, Republican Rep. John Kline worked harder than he had in years, after redistricting subtracted conservatives from the 2nd District. Democrat Mike Obermueller, a former state lawmaker, painted Kline as out of touch and vowed to run again in 2014, win or lose. The district stretches south to Zumbrota and Wabasha.

In southern Minnesota's 1st District, Democratic Rep. Tim Walz was the favorite as he sought a fourth term against Republican Allen Quist, a former state lawmaker.

Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson was also expected to prevail in the 7th District in western Minnesota as Republican businessman Lee Byberg challenged him for a second time. An Independence Party candidate was in the mix.

In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen and Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum were strongly favored.

Paulsen faced Democrat Brian Barnes, a veteran, in the fiscally conservative western Minneapolis suburbs. Ellison was up against Republican Chris Fields, a retired Marine, in a race that took on a personal tone in left-leaning Minneapolis and inner-ring suburbs. McCollum was challenged by Republican Tony Hernandez, a bank officer, and an Independence Party candidate with tea party ties in Democratic-friendly St. Paul and nearby suburbs.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.