The results of the election in Minnesota were not what was widely expected. The conventional wisdom suggested Republicans would have a big night. In a midterm election with a lackluster Presidential approval rating, rising inflation, and prolonged economic uncertainty, it would seem that history would once again repeat itself. That didn’t happen. Instead, Democrats (DFL) carried voters focused on issues such as reproductive rights, election integrity/democracy, and public safety, especially in and around the Twin Cities suburbs. The graphic below shows this exactly (Graphic 1).
Polls showed a very tight race for Governor and Republican candidates for other statewide offices leading slightly. In the end, Governor Walz won by more than eight points, enough to “carry” the other statewide offices to victory for a clean Democratic sweep of all constitutional offices – Governor/Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and State Auditor.
But that’s not all.
Democrats took control of both chambers in the the state legislature. Republicans needed to flip just four seats to win control. They flipped three, but more importantly, they lost five seats. Democrats retained a 70 – 64 majority in the House.
The cherry on top for Democrats was the Senate. Republicans had a one vote majority in the Senate (with 2 independent Senators caucusing with them). Despite this narrow margin, they were expected to keep the majority and maybe pick up a couple seats. Democrats ended up reelecting all incumbent senators while one Republican lost relection: Senator Roger Chamberlain. The surprise that put Democrats over the top was Senate District 3 in the Iron Range. This was a seat vacated by Senator Tom Bakk, a former Democrat who switched to Independent, caucusing with the Republicans. Democrat Grant Hauschild won by 704 votes out of nearly 44,000 votes cast. Democrats flipped the Senate and now hold the majority 34 – 33.
For the first time since 2012, Democrats now have the “trifecta:” controlling the Governor, House, and Senate. That year was much different than 2022. More of the Senate Democrats in 2012 were from Greater Minnesota and they were more moderate. This year, Democrats are concentrated in and around the Twin Cities and regional centers like Mankato, Rochester, St. Cloud, Moorehead, and Duluth.
Governor / Lieutenant Governor^
Tim Walz / Peggy Flannagan – 52.27% (1,312,297)
Scott Jensen and Matt Birk – 44.61% (1,119,916)
There were 52,040 votes for two candidates representing parties focused on legalizing marijuana. Governor Walz and Speaker Hortman have already expressed that legalizing recreational marijuana is a priority for next session. If recreational marijuana is legalized, will these two cannabis/marijuana parties continue to appear on the ballot? It is widely believed they will not and that the vast majority of those votes will go to the DFL-endorsed candidates.
Coming into the election, the DFL held a 70 – 64 majority. After the election, the DFL will have a 70 – 64 majority. DFL candidates overperformed in the suburbs, but lost a couple Greater Minnesota races, including 46-year incumbent Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL – Hermantown), who lost by 35 votes. Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls) lost by 15 votes (pending recounts). Incumbent DFLers lost three races, whereas Incumbent Republicans lost five. One race, District 7A, paired two incumbents together due to redistricting, Rep. Spencer Igo prevailed against Rep. Julie Sandstede for this Iron Range seat.
There will be a lot of fresh faces in the House next year: 44 true freshman members, which is about a third of the chamber. Returning to the House is Jeff Brand (DFL – St. Peter). Representative-Elect Brand lost in 2020 by 108 votes to Representative Susan Akland. Greater Mankato House races of interest:
House District 18A
Jeff Brand (DFL) – 51.04%
Susan Akland* (R) – 48.84%
House District 18B
Luke Frederick* (DFL) – 60.13%
Dar Vosburg (R) – 39.77%
House District 22A
Bjorn Olson* (R) – 69.04%
Marisa Ulmen (DFL) – 30.88%
House District 22B
Brian Pfarr* (R) – 68.67%
Marcia Stapleton (DFL) – 31.27%
House District 15B
Paul Torkelson* (R) – 72.56%
Tom Kuster (DFL) – 27.39%
The surprise of the night was that the DFL flipped the Senate. The DFL will now have a razor thin 34 – 33 majority. This is the first time since 2012 that the DFL will control both chambers of the legislature. No DFL incumbents lost reelection, whereas one Republican senator lost, Senator Roger Chamberlain (36 – Lino Lakes).
There will also be 24 new members of the Senate, of which 14 are true freshmen. There are ten members who moved “up” from the House to serve in the Senate. The DFL caucus with ten net new members, and Republicans with four. Greater Mankato Senate races of interest:
Senate District 18
Nick Frentz* (DFL – North Mankato) – 57.78%
Mark Wright (R – Mankato) – 42.10%
Senate District 22
Rich Draheim* (R- Madison Lake) – 96.87% (unopposed)
Senate District 15
Gary Dahms* (R) – 71.18%
Anita Gaul (DFL) – 28.76%
State Constitutional Offices
The DFL candidates won all the statewide constitutional offices. Steve Simon was the top voter-getter for any candidate this year. This was likely a nod to Minnesota’s tradition of elections with high turnout that are fair and drama-free.
Another piece of commentary about the state-wide candidates: two of the Republican candidates did significantly better than other others. Ryan Wilson (State Auditor) and Jim Schultz (Attorney General) had much closer races than Scott Jensen and Kim Crockett. This could have been a nod to the quality of the candidates and their messages, but it could have also been related to the topic of public safety and oversight in the wake of the defund the police movement and the Feeding our Futures scandal. In any event, Keith Ellison (Attorney General) and Julie Blaha (State Auditor) rode to victory on the coat tails of Governor Walz’ eight point margin over Scott Jensen.
Secretary of State
Steve Simon (DFL) – 54.53% (1,345,677)
Kim Crockett (R) – 45.38% (1,229,948)
Keith Ellison (DFL) – 50.37% (1,254,366)
Jim Schultz (R) – 49.53% (1,233,560)
Julie Blaha (DFL) – 47.47% (1,168,170)
Ryan Wilson (R) – 47.13% (1,159,733)
*There were also 131,656 third party votes in the State Auditor’s race. Two candidates that represented cannabis and marijuana legalization parties. The brings up the same question as the Governor’s race: if recreational marijuana is legalized, will these candidates continue to appear on the ballot?
The caucuses in the House and Senate have met and started to elect the leadership teams with their caucuses. There are many new faces including both DFL and Republican leaders in the Senate along with each caucus in the House. At this point, the only leader who is returning is the Speaker of House, Melissa Hortman.
Another important fact: 3 out of the 4 caucus leaders are women.
Majority Leader: Senator Kari Dziedzic (60 – Minneapolis)
President of Senate: Senator Bobby Joe Champion (59 – Minneapolis)
Tax Committee Chair: Senator Ann Rest (43 – New Hope)
Finance Committee Chair: Senator John Marty (40 – Roseville)
A detail that is important to consider: the leadership of both the House and Senate DFL is exclusively from the the Twin Cities metro. There are no top-tier leaders in the DFL from Greater Minnesota. This will be important item to keep in mind as the Democrats develop their priorities for the 2023 session.
Majority Leader: Senator Mark Johnson (1 – East Grand Forks)
Leadership Team: Karin Housley (33 – Stillwater), Julia Coleman (48 – Waconia), Bill Weber (21 – Luverne), Justin Eichhorn (6 – Grand Rapids)
House of Representatives
Speaker: Rep. Melissa Hortman (34B – Brooklyn Park)
Majority Leader: Rep. Jamie Long (61B – Minneapolis)
Majority Whip: Rep. Athena Hollins (66B – St. Paul)
There will be more discussion about Assistant Majority Leaders and committee chairs in the coming days. I expect to see better regional representation, but from the outset, DFL leaders represent a very specific group: the Twin Cities core metro.
As is typical after an election with a disappointing results, the House Republican caucus has decided that a change of leadership is appropriate. The caucus will be led by Representative Lisa Demuth (13A – Cold Spring) replacing current leader, Rep. Kurt Daudt. Minority Leader-Elect Demuth is the first black lawmaker to serve as a caucus leader, and first woman to serve as House Republican Leader.
Minority Leader: Representative Lisa Demuth (13A – Cold Spring)
Deputy/Assistant Minority Leaders: TBD
We can expect the Governor and DFL-led legislature to get to work fast on issues that have lagged for years: paid family leave, sick leave, recreational marijuana, sports betting, public-option health care, etc. We can also expect to see a massive increase in education funding.
We could still see some tax relief with such a massive surplus of $9+ billion, but DFLers will be looking to make investments (increase spending) in areas that have been blocked for years due to divided control in Minnesota.
There will be 70 new members of the legislature, of which 58 are true freshman having never held a seat in the legislature previously. The learning curve for a legislator is steep and some will pick it up faster than others. Many will simply go along with their caucus for a while in an effort to earn favor with their colleagues. More than 500 years of combined legislative experience will be walking out the door on December 31, 2022, including giants like Senators Julie Rosen, David Senjem, and Tom Bakk. In the House, Representatives Mary Murphy, Carlos Mariani, Jim Davnie, and Paul Marquart will all be gone. There will be some very new legislators stepping up into leadership roles in all caucuses. We will spend a lot of time in 2023 educating these members on important issues, including how they can help–or hurt–Greater Mankato businesses.
As always, if you have questions or comments, please reach out to Andy Wilke, Director of Business Development and Public Affairs.