FARGO — It's all about the presidential race to most Americans. As it should be. Whether the United States chooses President Donald Trump or challenger Joe Biden will determine much about our future.
But the top of the ticket isn't the only game in town this Election Day.
Here are five interesting local races on which to keep an eye Tuesday, Nov. 3:
Minnesota's Seventh Congressional District
Longtime U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a moderate Democrat, faces his toughest challenge yet in keeping his seat in Washington, D.C. Republican Michelle Fischbach is hoping to ride Trump's popularity in the large rural district to a victory.
National election prognosticators rate the race a toss-up or slightly favoring Fischbach, which jibes with what multiple political sources have told me about internal polling. Fischbach is slightly ahead, but well within the margin of error.
The same national prognosticators say Democrats stand to pick up 10-15 seats and expand their majority in the House as suburban voters reject Trumpism. There are no suburbs in the Seventh District, which might favor Fischbach.
North Dakota Measure 2
North Dakota's Legislature is constantly trying to steal power from the state's citizens, which is what Measure 2 is all about. If approved, the proposal would set a high bar for citizen-led initiated measures. Basically the Legislature would have to approve measures driven and passed by the citizens, which is upside-down.
In the unlikely event Measure 2 wins, North Dakota's citizens will be the big losers.
If Measure 2 fails, the Legislature might find itself losing even more than it expected. With constant attacks on a process North Dakota citizens cherish, lawmakers' ham-handed attempts to strip it away could lead to initiated measures involving campaign finance, lobbyists and term limits — issues that would prick the skin of legislators.
North Dakota House District 8
This is a legislative district far from Fargo, but the Bismarck-area race has made national news.
That's because a Republican who was expected to win, Dave Andahl, died about a month ago. But he'll remain on the ballot because the death came so close to the election. If Andahl receives the most votes, he'll be declared the winner even though he's deceased.
Now comes the spice factor.
An Andahl victory would allow the GOP to fill his seat with someone of their choosing. And there's a good chance that person would be Jeff Delzer, the fellow Republican who lost to Andahl in the June primary. Fueling Andahl's victory was big money from a political action committee funded mostly by Gov. Doug Burgum, who holds a grudge the size of the Badlands against Delzer.
So Delzer, who was vanquished by Burgum, would be back in Bismarck and possibly returned to his powerful seat on the House Appropriations Committee, where he made life miserable for the governor.
Bring on that drama, please.
Minnesota State Senate
Because of the makeup of his largely rural district, DFL state Sen. Kent Eken is often viewed as vulnerable by Minnesota Republicans wanting to pick off seats. This odd year when challengers had little chance to gain traction because of the pandemic muted Eken's vulnerability, but it's still worth watching how he fares against little-known Republican Mark Larson of Hawley.
Here's why: An Eken victory would give the DFL an even greater chance of gaining control of the Minnesota Senate, where Republicans hold a slim majority. With Trump's support cratering in the Twin Cities suburbs, DFLers are confident of their chances of taking the Senate on Tuesday.
That would give Democrats full control of state government as they already have a House majority they are expected to keep and Gov. Tim Walz is a DFLer not up for reelection until 2022.
Cass County's tilt
In 2008, North Dakota's most populous county (home to Fargo) voted for a Democrat, Barack Obama, to be president. The margin was 53%-46%, Obama over John McCain. Obama won the presidency in a landslide.
In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney edged Obama 50%-47% in Cass County. Obama was reelected, but by a much slimmer margin.
In 2016, Cass County chose Trump over Hillary Clinton by 10 points, 49%-39%. Trump won the presidency.
So one could surmise that a Democrat winning Cass County — or at least staying within a few points — portends good things nationally for that candidate. Cass County is younger, more diverse and has more college-educated residents than North Dakota as a whole, so it mirrors suburban areas that are key to a Biden victory.
If Cass County goes for Biden, there would be a strong chance the Democrat will win the White House.
It would also be important to Democratic state legislative candidates, who are trying to hold their seats or gain a few new ones to carve slightly into the Republicans' supermajority.
Readers can reach Forum columnist Mike McFeely at email@example.com or 701-451-5655.