Rep. John Kline (R)
Minnesota 2nd District
Drive south from the Twin Cities and one encounters big-box-store parking lots and new housing developments inhabited by youngish families working in managerial, business and technical careers. Many come from elsewhere, attracted by Minnesota’s strong economy and pleasant living, and tolerant of its cold winters. They have turned places such as Eagan, Lakeville, Apple Valley, Mendota Heights and Burnsville in Dakota County into fast-growing “mall” suburbs. More upscale are the suburbs of Scott and Carver counties; Scott County grew by an impressive 44% from 2000 to 2008. In recent years, these suburban areas have begun to see an influx of lower-income residents, attracted by the same good schools and low crime rates that attracted the earlier population. Drive farther south on Interstate 35—a little farther every year—and suddenly one is surrounded by farm country. There are also modest-sized towns such as Northfield, the idyllic home of Carleton College and its late professor-turned-liberal senator, Paul Wellstone. Northfield is 40 miles from Minneapolis and St. Paul, and some people there commute to the Twin Cities core on I-35.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
These ’burbs and hamlets make up the 2nd Congressional District of Minnesota. Dakota County, just south of St. Paul, casts nearly half the votes in the district and historically was marginally Democratic, while the other counties were fairly heavily Republican. But in 1998, this was Jesse Ventura country. In that three-way race, he carried all of the district’s counties, with a sharply increased turnout. As the suburbs have continued growing, Ventura country has become more Republican. George W. Bush narrowly carried Dakota County in 2000 and 2004, and it produced big margins for Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2002. But in 2006, Democrat Amy Klobuchar showed that Democrats can still compete in Dakota County, capturing 56% there. In 2008, Dakota was split: Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama won the county 52%-46%, while Coleman was again successful, 46%-38%. The only remaining Democratic-Farmer-Labor strongholds here are Rice County, home of Northfield, and Washington County. Republican presidential candidate John McCain won the district overall, 49.8%-48.3%.
Rep. John Kline (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Sept. 6, 1947, Allentown, PA .
Education: Rice U., B.A. 1969, Shippensburg U., M.P.A. 1988.
Family: Married (Vicky); 2 children.
Military career: Marine Corps, 1969-94 (Vietnam).
Professional Career: V.P., Cntr. of the American Experiment, 2001-02.
The congressman from the 2nd District is John Kline, a Republican first elected in 2002. Kline grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, where his father owned a small hometown newspaper and his mother managed the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra for more than 40 years. After graduating from Rice University, he served for 25 years in the Marine Corps. During the Vietnam War, he commanded Marine aviation forces in Somalia, and his duties included responsibility for the Corps’ $50 billion program-objective memorandum, a budget and planning analysis. Later, he was assigned to the White House and carried the so-called “football”—the package containing the nuclear launch codes—for presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan; he surely has had more face time with presidents than most other members of Congress. When he retired in 1994, he settled in Lakeville, in Dakota County, where he managed his wife’s family farm.
|John Kline (R)||220,924||(57%)||($1,484,962)|
|Steve Sarvi (DFL)||164,093||(43%)||($559,474)|
|John Kline (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (56%), 2004 (56%), 2002 (53%)
In 1998, Kline challenged Democratic Rep. Bill Luther in the old Minnesota 6th District, after Luther had had several expensive and fierce campaigns to keep the seat. Kline favored tax cuts, more military spending and the resignation of President Bill Clinton in that year’s impeachment proceedings. He also opposed abortion rights. He spent only $283,000; Luther, who raised $1 million in the cycle, spent only $412,000. That might have been a mistake. Luther won by only 50%-46%. Kline hardly stopped running. More experienced and better financed in 2000, he made a rematch with Luther one of the nation’s high-profile House contests. The result was closer across the board, but Luther survived 50%-48%, and Kline said he was unlikely to run again.
Then the unexpected happened. The redistricting plan ordered into effect by the state Supreme Court in March 2002 placed Kline’s home in a new 2nd District that included the home of no incumbent. Republican leaders in Minnesota and Washington urged Kline to run again, and he agreed. But Luther’s home was in the new 6th District, which was a dozen miles north of the new 2nd and considerably more Republican after the redistricting. He decided to take on Kline in the 2nd District. The acrimonious campaign resumed where it had left off in 2000. Luther called Kline an extremist who held “Texas values.” Luther’s campaign manager encouraged Sam Garst, a Sierra Club activist and Luther supporter, to enter the race as a candidate of a new “No New Taxes” party—a purposefully deceptive banner designed to siphon votes from the Republican column. At first, the Luther campaign denied all connection with Garst, but Luther had to admit he did not discourage the action, and the local media harshly criticized the scheme as “un-Minnesotan.” It turned out to be no contest. Kline won by a comfortable 53%-42%.
In the House, Kline’s voting record has put him among the chamber’s most conservative members. He proposed legislation to replace Ulysses S. Grant with former President Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill. He later became a trusted deputy of Minority Leader John Boehner and was given responsibilities at the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans.
On the Armed Services Committee, Kline made frequent trips to Iraq and applauded the improved security after President Bush’s troop “surge.” On the Education and Labor Committee, Kline was a conferee on pension legislation signed into law in 2006. He worked to include relief for struggling airlines, including Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines, by giving them more time to make contributions to employee pensions. The House also passed a Kline bill that would require states to adopt policies that prevent schools from forcing parents to medicate children with behavioral problems.
Backed by Minnesota corn growers, Kline sponsored legislation requiring that gasoline contain 10% blended ethanol by 2010. But some local officials were unhappy in 2007 when Kline said he would no longer seek spending earmarks for his district in appropriations bills “until integrity is restored” to the process. By then, Congress’ longtime practice of earmarking had fallen into disfavor with conservatives, who said it led to wasteful spending.
In 2006, Democrats appeared to have found a strong candidate in Colleen Rowley, a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who was one of Time’s three “Persons of the Year” in 2002 for going public with the FBI’s decision to ignore recommendations to investigate Zacarias Moussaoui, a figure in the September 11 attacks. But as a first-time candidate, Rowley struggled to find her footing, and the party lost interest in her campaign. She was forced to apologize to Kline for portraying him on her website as the incompetent Colonel Klink, a Nazi prison-camp commandant from the television series Hogan’s Heroes. While other Republicans distanced themselves from Bush and the Iraq War, Kline was forthright about his support for the war, emphasizing his background as a former Marine and as the father of a young Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot (son John Daniel Kline) who did a tour of duty in Iraq. Kline won re-election 56%-40% over Rowley. In 2008, he again won re-election easily, with 57%-43% over Iraq War veteran Steve Sarvi.