2016 Rumor Mill: Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney Running For Congress?


UPDATE: Well that was quick. WDAY host Sandy Buttweiler, having seen this post, asked Mahoney in a radio interview this morning if he’d run for Congress. He said he’s not interested in any way. Rumor squashed?

The legislative session is over, and the lazy days of summer approach, and in those idle times there is usually much rumor mongering over what will and won’t be in the 2016 election cycle.

One persistent rumor I’ve heard from many sources, particularly from the Fargo area, is that Democrats are cultivating newly-elected Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney as a possible candidate against Congressman Kevin Cramer.

How seriously should we take the rumor? About as seriously as you take any rumor about candidacy 18 months before election day, but it’s fun to think about.

Mahoney would have advantages and disadvantages for Democrats. One major advantage is that he’d be very strong in Fargo specifically and the Red River Valley generally. Obviously, that’s where he’s most well known. The Red River Valley is already trending blue – no political discussion about campaigns among Republicans goes without expressed concern about that – and Mahoney could capitalize on that in a big way.

The thing is, a liberal Mayor probably isn’t going to play well in the rest of the state. Yes, the Red River Valley is the most populous region in the state. Winning there is a big advantage for any statewide candidate. But Democrat candidates can’t afford to get destroyed in places like Minot and Grand Forks either. Mahoney would definitely have to try a move to the right to stand a chance on the statewide ballot, and his level of success would hinge on how credible a shift that would be.

And it’s not at all clear that Mahoney would be especially strong in the valley. There are some issues – notably the controversial flood diversion plan which he is an outspoken and sometimes heavy handed proponent of – which could hurt him. Remember, the diversion didn’t get majority support among property owners on that recent balloting.

I spoke with a Democrat friend, and while he said his party sees Mahoney as an attractive potential recruit, he’s just one of many names. “Everyone is being very purposeful about using the next 6 months to party-build and not do statewide stuff,” my source told me. “If a statewide candidate does come out before then, it’s because they are highly motivated and want to get a head start. I haven’t seen or heard of anyone ramping up for that.”

He did say Mahoney is on a “list” but that it’s too early to conclude that he’s running for anything. “I wouldn’t put him in the picture as a likely candidate at this point. He’s one of 50 names being thrown around the party as someone we’d like to encourage to run at some point.”

Right now, my source tells me, Democrats are mostly focused on recruiting and training candidates from the legislature which looks to be the primary thrust of the liberals this cycle.