Seventh District congressman Collin Peterson is not your average Democrat.
The 10-term DFLer gets high marks from the National Rifle Association, plays guitar, and is more likely to be found in the halls of Congress wearing cowboy boots than Oxfords.
But a YouTube ad from Peterson’s Republican opponent Lee Byberg seeks to puncture Peterson’s reputation as a maverick.
“Collin Peterson knows that Minnesota’s 7th District didn’t support Barack Obama and his socialist agenda,” states an ominous voiceover while a man lists Peterson’s voting offenses on a white board. “This is why he’s so careful to paint himself as a middle-of-the-road candidate… It’s time to retire a lifetime politician who votes with Speaker Nancy Pelosi well over 90 percent of the time.”
Byberg is correct that Peterson’s recently been following the party line. But it hasn’t always been that way.
This investigation will not rule on whether Obama has a socialist agenda, as the ad states; that’s a matter of opinion. Instead, this PoliGraph test will focus on whether the ad gets Peterson’s voting record right.
Generally speaking, Peterson’s district is conservative. Voters there have supported Republicans in the last three presidential elections, although John McCain defeated Barack Obama by just three percentage points in the 7th in 2008.
Byberg’s right that Peterson votes frequently with his party leaders. Of the 1,483 votes Peterson cast during this congressional session, he’s voted with his party about 93.3 percent of the time, according to The Washington Post. That puts Peterson just above his party’s average of 92.2 percent.
Peterson’s so-called party unity score hasn’t always been so high. During the 109th Congress, the last session before Democrats took over the House of Representatives, Peterson voted with his party only 78.7 percent of the time. Between 1995 and 1997, Peterson claimed a party unity score of 64 percent – the lowest of his career.
Byberg’s claim is accurate: In the current session of Congress Peterson voted with his party more than 90 percent of the time.
Lee Byberg for Congress, Collin Peterson 101, accessed Sept. 14, 2010
Congressional Quarterly, Member Profile: Collin Peterson, accessed Sept. 14, 2010
The Washington Post, Votes Database: 111th Congress, accessed Sept. 14, 2010
The Washington Post, Votes Database: 109th Congress, accessed Sept. 14, 2010
The Washington Post, Votes Database: 104th Congress, accessed Sept. 14, 2010
The Wall Street Journal, In the House, It’s Peterson vs. Climate Bill, by Steven Powers, June 22, 2010
Collin Peterson, Peterson Op-Ed: Amendments to Climate Change Bill Were Necessary, July 16, 2010
Congressional Quarterly, Partisanship and Presidential Support in the Bush Era, by John Cranford and Rachel Bloom, accessed Sept. 14, 2010