By Laura Oakes

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — So just what are the hottest races in Minnesota this election season? WCCO’s Laura Oakes goes Behind the Ballot.

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Yes, the political ads are heating up — a sure sign the battle for voters is, too, especially in northeastern Minnesota’s 8th district.

Director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Politics and Governance Larry Jacobs says the ad war between Republican incumbent Chip Craavack and former three-term Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan is ferocious.

Jacobs says the Democrats feel this is their territory and they should be able to take the seat back, while Republicans think they can hold the seat, considering the recent changes to district boundaries that include more Minnesotans who tend to vote Republican.

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South of the Twin Cities, the battle is on in the First District as well, though Jacobs says first-term Democrat Tim Walz has a lot of “middle of the road” appeal and will likely fend off the challenge from Republican Allen Quist.

And in the conservative 6th, Jacobs says while incumbent and former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is despised among Democrats, she remains a hero among Republicans in a district he says has become even more conservative since the boundaries were redrawn. Jacobs says that, coupled with Bachmann’s time in the national spotlight, means a tough go for Democratic challenger Jim Graves.

On the Senate side, Jacobs expects an easy victory for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobachar, who’s national credibility he says continues to skyrocket. Jacobs says if her showing is as strong as expected, he wouldn’t be surprised if Klobachar’s name surfaces as a Vice Presidential candidate in 2016.

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In other election issues, Jacobs says he expects some heated battles in the legislative races, where Democrats are fiercely trying to regain control of the House and Senate. And Jacobs says the gay marriage amendment vote will most likely come down to the wire.