|Chair of the House Agriculture Committee|
January 3, 2019
January 3, 2007 - January 3, 2011
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Minnesota's 7th district
January 3, 1991
|Member of the Minnesota Senate|
from the 10th district
January 4, 1977 - January 5, 1987
|Roger L. Hanson|
Collin Clark Peterson
June 29, 1944
Fargo, North Dakota, U.S.
|Education||Minnesota State University, Moorhead (BA)|
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Years of service||1963-1969|
|Unit||Army National Guard|
Collin Clark Peterson (born June 29, 1944) is an American politician who has served as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 7th congressional district since 1991. A member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, he has been chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture since 2019, previously holding the office from 2007 to 2011; he had been ranking member from 2011 to 2019 and 2005 to 2007. Peterson is the most senior U.S. Representative from Minnesota and the dean of Minnesota's congressional delegation. His district, Minnesota's largest and most rural district, includes most of the western area of the state, including Moorhead, Fergus Falls, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, Morris, Thief River Falls, Willmar, Marshall, and Alexandria.
Peterson was a member of the Minnesota Senate for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (the Minnesota branch of the Democratic Party) from 1977 to 1986, representing a district in northwestern Minnesota. In 1976, he defeated Republican nominee Frank DeGroat 55%-45%. In 1982, he won re-election against state representative Cal Larson by just 200 votes, or 0.8% difference.
In 1984, he ran for Minnesota's 7th congressional district in Northwestern Minnesota, held by Republican Arlan Stangeland. Peterson lost 57%-43%. In 1986, he ran in a rematch and narrowly lost by just 121 votes. In 1988, he ran again but lost in the DFL primary to State Senator Marv Hanson 55%-45%. Hanson went on to lose to Stangeland 55%-45%.
In 1990, he ran for a fourth time and won the primary. In the general election, he finally defeated seven-term incumbent Stangeland by 54%-46%. Stangeland's stock had dropped sharply after he admitted making a number of personal calls on his House credit card.
In 1992, he narrowly won re-election by a 50%-49% margin against former State Representative Bernie Omann. In a 1994 rematch, Peterson won again by a 51%-49% margin, despite the Republican Revolution. In 1996, he won re-election with 68% of the vote, and won every county in the district. In 1998, he won re-election with 72% of the vote.
In the 2000s, Peterson never faced a serious re-election challenge and only once did he win re-election with less than two-thirds of the vote. In 2000, he was mentioned as a possible candidate for the U.S. Senate against Republican Rod Grams, but he chose to run for re-election, winning with 69% of the vote. In 2002, he won with 65% of the vote. In 2004, he won with 66% of the vote. In 2006, he won with 70% of the vote. In 2008, he won with 72% of the vote.
In 2010, Peterson survived another Republican wave election. This time, he defeated Lee Byberg 55%-38%, his worst election performance since 1994. In 2012, Peterson won re-election with 60.38% to Republican Lee Byberg's 34.85% and Independent Adam Steele's 4.67%.
In 2013, Republicans began pressuring Peterson, in hopes of convincing him to retire. His seat is one of only a handful that is represented by a Democrat but was carried by Mitt Romney in the 2012 election and is seen as a top pick-up opportunity should Peterson retire. Their tactics included airing television advertisements, hiring a press staffer to give opposition research to reporters, hiring a tracker to follow him around his district and record him, and sending mobile billboards with critical statements on them to drive around his hometown. Peterson responded by saying, "They don't have anybody else to go after. It's kind of ridiculous, but whatever." After Republicans spread rumors that Peterson was planning to buy a house in Florida and retire there, he said: "I went from neutral on running again to 90 percent just because of this stupid stuff they're doing. You can't let these people be in charge of anything, in my opinion." On March 17, 2014, Peterson officially announced that he was running for re-election, saying, "I still have a lot of work to do". Despite being heavily targeted by national Republican groups, Peterson defeated Republican State Senator Torrey Westrom in the general election by 54% to 46%.
In October 2014, Peterson said that he may keep running until 2020 because the Republicans "made me mad" with their efforts to defeat him or persuade him to retire. In January 2015, he stated that he was "running at this point" for re-election in 2016, saying that the efforts by Republicans to unseat him had "energized me" and "got me fired up". He was challenged by Republican retired Air Force Major Dave Hughes and beat him in close races in 2016 and 2018.
Peterson is one of the founders of the Blue Dog Coalition, the caucus of House Democrats who identify as moderates and conservatives. He is one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress and frequently crosses the party line. Peterson has split from his party on issues such as gay marriage, healthcare, the estate tax, tort reform, gun control, the environment, DC statehood, and abortion. In 2008, a report by Congressional Quarterly found he had the lowest party loyalty score over the previous five years of any member of the Minnesota congressional delegation. In the 109th Congress, he was rated 50% conservative by a conservative group and 57% progressive by a liberal group.
During the first session of the 115th United States Congress, Peterson was ranked the most bipartisan member of the House of Representatives by the Bipartisan Index, a metric created by the Lugar Center and Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy to assess congressional bipartisanship.
Peterson is generally conservative on social issues; he strongly opposes legal abortion and has been one of the few Democrats to vote against embryonic stem cell research. He has voted to ban physician-assisted suicide and also to approve the proposed Flag Desecration Amendment to the United States Constitution. He also voted for the Defense of Marriage Act and supports the death penalty.
In January 2019, in reference to President Trump's proposed wall across the southern border, Peterson said, "I'd give him the whole thing ... and put strings on it so you make sure he puts the wall where it needs to be. Why are we fighting over this? We're going to build that wall anyway, at some time." Peterson furthered that there could be stipulations requiring some funding go toward Border Patrol and security measures at ports of entry being improved.
On April 4, 2019, Peterson was the only Democrat to vote against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, citing his disappointment with the law being "made partisan with the inclusion of language that would strip individuals' right to due process with respect to their 2nd Amendment rights."
His district contains some of the most conservative counties in the state and also the state's most rural district; many DFLers outside the Twin Cities are hunters and trappers who oppose gun control. Peterson is a conservationist, but opposes "excessive environmental regulation" because he argues they harm farmers. He is an avid hunter and supports animal trapping, but in 2000 he joined with the Humane Society of the United States to pass legislation that stopped the interstate shipping of birds for cockfighting. He has supported legislation that would end protection for wolves in the Endangered Species Act.
In 2004, he joined with Minnesota attorney general Mike Hatch in suing the state of North Dakota over what they argued were discriminatory laws that forbade non-North Dakota residents from hunting during the first week of the waterfowl hunting season. Their case was rejected by the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota, a decision which was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Although he's been called a strong fiscal conservative, he is somewhat closer to the liberal wing of his party on economic issues: he has voted against most free trade agreements, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Freedom to Farm Act, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He also voted against both versions of the Patriot Act and he has been sharply critical of the No Child Left Behind Act, which he contends is unfair to rural students. He supports the FairTax, a national sales tax, estate-tax repeal, tort reform, and the Bush tax cuts. He voted against the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act.
Along with John Conyers, in April 2006 Peterson brought an action against George W. Bush and others alleging violations of the Constitution in the passing of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The case (Conyers v. Bush) was ultimately dismissed.
On January 28, 2009, Peterson was amongst the seven Democrats who voted in the House together with the unanimous Republican opposition against President Obama's stimulus package (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009).
In 1998, as part of an effort to change what were considered unequal fishing regulations between the U.S. and Canada, Peterson gained attention by proposing a constitutional amendment that would allow the residents of Minnesota's Northwest Angle to vote on whether they wanted to secede from the United States and join the Canadian province of Manitoba. Peterson said that the amendment, which was part of a mock secession movement, was successful in bringing the issue to the attention of the White House: "In just the day after I introduced (the amendment), people from the vice president's office have been asking questions, people in the White House (too). I've got meetings scheduled with the U.S. trade representative... we've educated people on both sides of the border, and I think we've brought it closer to the point where we'll get this thing resolved."
In 2003, he was one of just 16 Democrats to vote for President Bush's Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act.
On March 21, 2010, Peterson voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). In January 2016, he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (he was the sole Democrat in the House to vote for the repeal). In 2017, he voted against Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
From 2003 through 2005, $14.7 billion in crop subsidies went to the congressional districts of members on the House Committee on Agriculture, an analysis by the non-partisan Environmental Working Group found. That was 42.4% of the total subsidies. Peterson is reported to have brought $874 million to his district. In Peterson's district, which includes sugar beets, wheat and poultry, 58% of the $2.8 billion paid out in crop subsidies from 1995 to 2005 went to 10% of recipients, according to the Environmental Working Group, which tracks farm spending. The chairman says he has no problem with that. "Ten percent of the farmers produce 90% of the food," he says.
In January 2005, he was selected by the House Democratic Caucus to succeed former Texas congressman Charlie Stenholm as the ranking member on the Committee on Agriculture. He became the committee's chairman after the Democrats won control of the House two years later.
Peterson was a cosponsor of the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security Act of 2005 which would provide job protection for three million illegal immigrant agricultural workers and their families, and extend the visas of legal immigrant agricultural workers.
In addition to this, Peterson is the current chair of the House committee on Agriculture as of 2019.
In April 2009, Peterson voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
On May 6, 2009, Peterson voiced his opposition to climate change legislation proposed by the Obama Administration saying, "I will not support any kind of climate change bill - even if you fix this - because I don't trust anybody anymore. I've had it." Peterson predicted that an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to assess indirect effects of ethanol production on greenhouse gas emissions, combined with the climate change legislation, could "kill off corn ethanol."
On July 27, 2009, a controversy erupted after Peterson was quoted in a Politico.com article saying, "25 percent of my people believe the Pentagon and Rumsfeld were responsible for taking the twin towers down. That's why I don't do town meetings." The state Republican Party denounced the remark as "outrageous and offensive". Peterson apologized for the comment, which he described as "off-hand".
In 2011, he co-sponsored HR 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The bill contained an exception for "forcible rape," which opponents criticized as potentially excluding drug-facilitated rape, date rape, and other forms of rape. The bill also allowed an exception for minors who are victims of incest.
Peterson was one of five house Democrats who voted for the US to continue selling arms to Saudi Arabia and to support the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen. Asked why he voted against the resolution and what he knew about the Yemeni civil war, Peterson said, "I don't know a damn thing about it". Peterson also said that the resolution on US involvement in the Yemeni civil war would have jeopardized a farm bill that was under consideration at the same time; according to New York magazine's Eric Levitz, "by all accounts, voting against the Yemen resolution would not have doomed the farm bill."
On October 31, 2019, he was one of two Democrats to vote against Article I of the impeachment inquiries against President Donald Trump, and one of the three Democrats to vote against Article II. He again was one of two Democrats, alongside Jeff Van Drew, to vote against impeachment on December 18, 2019.
This section needs expansion with: election results between 1992 and 2000. You can help by adding to it. (July 2020)
|Democratic (DFL)||Collin Peterson (incumbent)||144,752||39.9%|
Peterson lives in Detroit Lakes, just east of Moorhead. He is divorced and previously dated former congresswoman Katherine Harris, the former Republican secretary of state of Florida. He is a licensed private pilot and frequently travels by private plane across his district.
| Member of the Minnesota Senate
from the 10th district
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 7th congressional district
| Chair of the House Agriculture Committee
| Chair of the House Agriculture Committee
|Party political offices|
| Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition for Policy
Served alongside: Gary Condit (Administration), John S. Tanner (Communications)
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority