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Parties, groups spend millions on two House races in Minnesota

By Frederic J. Frommer

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — National political parties and other groups have spent millions of dollars in Minnesota’s two most competitive House races — those pitting Tim Walz against Rep. Gil Gutknecht, and Patty Wetterling against Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann, a Republican running in the state’s open 6th Congressional District, has benefited from nearly $2.5 million worth of expenditures by the National Republican Congressional Committee. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent just less than $1.2 million to help Wetterling.

Political action committees supporting Wetterling have helped to close some of that gap. Emily’s List, which backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, has spent about $300,000 on the race. The Service Employees International Union’s PAC has spent about $215,000, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees PAC has spent just more than $140,000.

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Outside expenditures pay for things such as TV and radio advertising, phone banks, mailings and surveys.

Wetterling campaign manager Corey Day argued the NRCC spending was aimed at counterbalancing Wetterling’s financial advantage. As of Oct. 18, the latest report available, Wetterling had $783,000 in the bank, compared to $563,000 for Bachmann.

"More than anything, the expenditures of the NRCC show (Bachmann) was a candidate that needed to be propped up," Day said.

Responded Bachmann campaign manager Andy Parrish: "It shows that the NRCC believes in Michele Bachmann."

Both parties said the money spent was a reflection of the race’s competitiveness.

"If you’re spending more than a million dollars in a race, that is a top-tier race," said DCCC spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield. "(The 6th District) is one of the most competitive races in the nation and we have committed to helping Patty Wetterling get her message of change out to voters."

NRCC spokesman Jonathan Collegio said a combination of an expensive market and an open seat helped fuel outside spending in the race.

"Open seats are competitive things, and when they’re located in expensive media markets like Minneapolis, that can be expensive as well," he said.

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Meanwhile, in the 1st Congressional District, spending by both parties was about equal, although outside groups helped give an edge to the Democratic challenger, Walz.

The DCCC has spent about $370,000 in outside expenditures, compared to about $410,000 by the NRCC.

Labor groups have spent heavily on behalf of Walz, combining to spend around $600,000, including $300,000 by AFSCME, and around $230,000 by SEIU. And VoteVets.org, a group headed by an Iraq War veteran, has spent $115,000 on an ad criticizing Gutknecht’s record on veterans issues.

Gutknecht, a six-term GOP incumbent, is locked in a tight race with Walz, an Army National Guard vet.

"We appreciate the expenditures," said Walz campaign spokeswoman Meredith Salsbery.

Gutknecht campaign spokesman Bryan Anderson said the campaign was concerned the outside spending could have an effect on the election.

"Any time you have people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking you, of course you worry about that," he said. "You have to have faith that the voters can sort it all out."

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