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Published March 17 2014

Forum editorial: Filter out the blather and noise

Watch Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District as a microcosm of the toxic brand of politics that again will taint campaigns across the nation this summer and fall. Veteran Democrat Collin Peterson is seeking a 13th term in the U.S. House. Republican Torrey Westrom is the endorsed challenger.

The 7th tipped for Mitt Romney in the last presidential election by 54 percent. Peterson won with his usually overwhelming margin, which has been 60 percent or better. Republican analysts, apparently letting the Romney margin cloud their judgment, seem to believe Peterson is vulnerable. They should not count on it.

Nevertheless, the district will make for an interesting race between two decent men who might have a hard time keeping their decency. The contest likely will turn ugly because of outside money from the right and left that will fuel cheap-shot advertising over which neither candidate’s campaign will have any control. It’s happening already as well-funded super-PACs and other unaccountable organizations on the right have started to hammer on Peterson. It is not as likely left-leaning groups will go after Westrom because smart money knows beating the incumbent is a long shot.

The 7th District is more red than blue. Peterson was a blue-dog Democrat when that term was in vogue, and his positions on basic red-meat conservative issues – gun control and abortion, for instance – reflect sentiment among most voters in the 7th, whether Democrat, Republican or independent. Analysis of his vote totals over the 12 terms he’s been in Congress confirms his appeal crosses party lines.

The people of the 7th should be advised: The crazies have enough money (from whence it comes they won’t say) to buy TV advertising, but those ads are not and will not be the work of the candidates’ campaigns. The motivations of outside organizations have little to do with issues that are important to the residents of the 7th. In order to get an honest reading of the two candidates, listen to them. Ask them questions. Go to their debates. But don’t get fooled by the blather and noise from the right and left.

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