MN Republicans Strike Huge Victory: How They Won Control

The Republican Party of MN made big gains to take control of the state legislature.
MNGOP

MN Republicans come through in swing districts along with a few surprise victories to take control of the state legislature

St. Paul, MN- The entirety of the Minnesota State Senate and House of Representatives was up for election on November 8. With 201 total legislative seats in play, MN Republicans needed to pick up six more Senate seats to gain control in that chamber, while the DFL only needed seven pick ups to take control of the House.

With all 4,120 precincts across the state reporting, the MN GOP took control of the State Legislature. In the Senate the DFL held control prior to the election with 39 of the total 67 seats, while Republicans controlled 28. The GOP picked up the necessary six seats, and will hold a slim 34-33 majority in the Senate.

In the State House, the GOP was holding on to a majority of 73-61. On election night, Republicans gained 12 more seats to push their majority to 85-49.

Republicans picked up Senate Districts 1, 2, 5, 17, 20, 21, 22, and 24, while Democrats grabbed 48 and 58 back from them. In the House, Republicans took 5A, 5B, 42A, 49A, 52B, and 54A, while Democrats won back 50B and 57A.

Here is how the key races Alpha News highlighted before the election ended up shaking out on election night. You can view all of the results of Minnesota races by visiting the MN Secretary of State website.

Key State House Races

    House District 4B – Incumbent Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL)  defeated Ben Grimsley (R) 53.8 to 46.1

Marquart is the only remaining DFL House member in a district that voted for Romney in 2012. Romney won 51-46, and the target on Marquart’s back was huge now, and spending for Grimsley is more than six-to-one. The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead has also emphatically rejected Marquart’s bid for reelection, emphasizing his rejection of flood control measures and lack of reduction of tax burden during his time in St. Paul.

    House District 14A – Rep. Tama Theis (R) defeats Aric Putnam (DFL) 54.7 to 45.2

Theis won reelection 55-45 in 2014, but Romney only won a shade over 50 percent of the vote in 2012. The DFL made this race a target in 2016, and money poured in from both sides as a result. Putnam’s camp spent about $329,000 to Theis’ $214,000. Theis held on with a similar margin of victory.

    House District 14B – Rep. Jim Knoblach (R) defeats former Rep. Zachary Dorholt (DFL) in rematch 51.2 to 48.6

Knoblach has totalled seven non-consecutive terms in the House, first representing the area from 1995-2007. In 2014, he defeated Dorholt, then an incumbent running for reelection for the first time, by just 69 votes. Knoblach increased his margin in the rematch. Spending was large and fairly even in this race, with both camps having spent around $390,000 thus far.

    House District 17B – Rep. Dave Baker (R) wins big in rematch with former Rep. Mary Sawatzky (DFL) 59.5 to 40.4

In 2014, this was another case of a DFL representative losing their seat after one term. In 2016, it’s another case of that same politician trying to win their old seat back. Sawatzky failed to do so on Tuesday. Baker won 50.66 to 49.27 percent in 2014, and ahead of the election Sawatzky was hoping the higher turnout of a presidential election year would put her back in the House, but it turned out to only help Baker. Spending was even in the district, with both campaigns totaling around $270,000 each. Baker opened up a much bigger margin for the district going forward.

    House District 21A – Barb Haley (R) beats Lisa Bayley (DFL) 54 to 44.9

Incumbent Rep. Tim Kelly (R) is retiring from the legislature this year leaving the seat open. Kelly won reelection in 2014 by a 62-38 margin, but the district went 51-47 for Obama two years prior. Bayley is an eight-year member of the Red Wing city council, but Republicans have a spending advantage of over $100,000 in this campaign. Barb Haley held on to the seat for the GOP.

    House District 28B – Rep. Gregory Davids (R) defeats Thomas Trehus (DFL) 54.7 to 45.2

Davids is a 12 term incumbent who won reelection in 2014 with 56 percent of the vote won by slimmer margin in 2016. He serves on the House Taxes Committee, while Trehus serves on a local school board. Obama won this district 52-46 in 2012 though. The DFL also had a two-to-one spending advantage here, in the third most expensive house race in Minnesota.

    House District 44A – Rep. Sarah Anderson (R) defeats Ginny Klevorn (DFL) 54 to 45.8

Five-term incumbent Anderson won reelection with 56 percent of the vote in 2014, and Romney carried the district 51-48 in 2012. Klevorn’s camp outspent Anderson by about $70,000 in an attempt to win the suburban district, but Anderson held strong at 54 percent.

    House District 48A – Laurie Pryor (DFL) defeats Mary Shapiro (R) 51.7 to 48.2

Rep. Yvonne Selcer (DFL) won reelection in 2014 by just 41 votes, and in 2012 by about one percent as well. Her retirement left this highly competitive district without an incumbent advantage. Shapiro is a former Minneapolis school teacher, while Pryor is a longtime DFL activist. Spending was relatively even, at about $258,000 for Pryor, and $236,000 for Shapiro, but Pryor was able to keep the house in DFL hands. 

    House District 49B – Rep. Paul Rosenthal (DFL) defeats Max Rymer (R) 55.4 to 44.4

This district leans DFL, but not excessively so to put a tight election day out of reach. Incumbent Rosenthal has served three non-consecutive terms since 2008, being ousted by former Rep. Pat Mazorol in the 2010 election, before returning for two more terms. Most recently, Rosenthal defeated Barb Sutter 53-47. In 2012, the district went 52-46 for Obama. Rymer’s camp had a more than 2.5 to one spending advantage in this race which ranks as the 28th most expensive in the state in 2016, but that failed to translate to votes on election day.

    House District 50B – Andrew Carlson (DFL) defeats Rep. Chad Anderson (R) 53.5 to 46.2

Former Rep. Ann Lenczewski resigned in December 2015 after winning reelection in 2014 with 66 percent of the vote. Anderson won the special election to replace her this past February 51-49 against Carlson. Carlson is a member of the Bloomington City Council, and the DFL has chalked up his loss to low turnout in the special election. Obama won the district 57-41 in 2012. Republicans had a nearly two-to-one advantage in spending here, but were unable to triumph in a high turn out election in this district. 

    House District 56B – Rep. Roz Peterson (R) holds strong agains Lindsey Port (DFL) 52.5 to 47.3

Peterson was up for reelection for the first time, having won her first term in 2014 with 54 percent of the vote. Her opponent is small business owner Lindsey Port. This was a very close district in the 2012 Presidential election, with Obama taking 49.07 percent to Romney’s 48.78 percent. Peterson’s camp has about a $126,000 spending advantage in the second most expensive House race this year.

    House District 57A – Ali Jimenez-Hopper (R) loses to Erin Maye Quade (DFL) 47.4 to 52.3

Four-term incumbent Rep. Tara Mack (R) retiring left the district open for a DFL pickup. Jimenez-Hopper was born and raised in the district, while Maye Quade is a staffer for Congressman Keith Ellison (DFL-CD5) and recently moved into the district. Both candidates have drew quite a bit of criticism. Jimenez-Hopper has been bashed for her view that Maye Quade is using her ethnicity and sexual orientation to play identity politics. Maye Quade drew some fire for her Twitter activity including references to day drinking and sex toy usage, as well as remaining on Ellison’s payroll while campaigning. Maye Quade had an almost $124,000 spending advantage in this race, the 10th most expensive in the state.

Key State Senate Races

    Senate District 1 – Mark Johnson (R) defeats Kip Fontaine (DFL) 61.4 to 38.5

Long time incumbent DFL Sen. Leroy Stumpf retired after 34 years in the Senate. While he won reelection with over 60 percent of the vote in 2012, the district leans Republican in most other cases. The two house seats in this district were won 67-33 and 56-44 by Republicans in 2014, and the district went 53-44 in favor of Mitt Romney in 2012. Money spent to help Republicans was nearly eight times that for the DFL here. This race ended up being about as close as the spending was.

    Senate District 2 –  Paul Utke (R) scores big win against incumbent Sen. Rod Skoe (DFL) 56.6 to 43.3

Skoe has held the seat for three terms, winning 55-45 most recently in 2012. Both of the House seats here are held by Republicans, with 2014 margins going 52-48 and 57-43. Romney also won here in 2012, by a similar margin as SD1. This is a toss-up, but the popularity of incumbent Sen. Skoe and pro-DFL spending eclipsing GOP levels by over $120,000, but that didn’t mean much as Utke’s margin of victory was more than 13 points.

    Senate District 4 – Sen. Kent Eken (DFL) holds steady against James Leiman (R) 55.1 to 44.8

The district leans heavily Democrat in the House races, with 58-42 and 66-34 margins in 2014. That was less true in election years for the State Senate race. Eken won his first term in 2012 with 52 percent of the vote, and while President Obama won the district in 2012, it was with slightly less than 51 percent. Spending in favor of Republicans is also nearly $90,000 greater than that for the DFL, but Eken managed to increase his margin of victory nonetheless. 

    Senate District 14 – Jerry Relph (R) narrowly edges out Dan Wolgamott (DFL) by 142 votes at 47.4 to 47 percent

This was a true toss-up district, with perhaps just the slightest of conservative leanings. Incumbent Sen. John Pederson is retiring after two terms, having won re-election in 2012 with a 52-47 margin. Both house seats are also held by Republicans here, but the margins are much closer. Rep. Tama Theis won 55-45, and Rep. Jim Knoblauch won with 50.15 percent of the vote compared to 49.54 for his DFL opponent, and both of those races are also likely to be close. In SD14 Democrats hold a nearly $190,000 spending advantage for Wolgamott. The GOP is somewhat fractured here due to the CD6 rift between the Tom Emmer and AJ Kern camps, but a recent ISIS inspired stabbing in St. Cloud may have encouraged voters to think strong national security, and MRepublicans further down ticket were likely to benefit from such a mentality as well.

    Senate District 17 – Andrew Lang (R) ousts Sen. Lyle Koenen (DFL) 57.3 to 42.7

Koenen has a very conservative voting record for the DFL, as his district also tends to lean more conservative. Republicans hold both house seats, with 2014 results being very similar to those of SD14’s house seats. Romney took the district 51-47 in 2012. Koenen won his first term in the Senate after 10 years in the House with a 55-45 margin. DFL spending is around $330,000 in this race, while the GOP mustered $270,000. Lang is a Minnesota National Guard officer and pilot.

    Senate District 20 – Rich Draheim (R) defeats incumbent Sen. Kevin Dahle (DFL) 51.9 to 48

This was the truest example of a swing district in Minnesota. Dahle won reelection in 2012 by just 82 votes total. HD20A leans heavily Republican, with Rep. Bob Vogel winning 64-36 in 2014. HD20B leans heavily towards the DFL however, with Rep. David Bly winning 58-42. Romney took SD20 50-47 in 2012. Democrats have been targeting this race much more heavily though, as they hold a nearly 3-1 advantage and a total of $250,000 spending lead. With small colleges such as St. Olaf and Carleton present, student involvement and turnout may have played a crucial role in this election, as Draheim overcame the spending advantage to claim victory.

    Senate District 21 – Sen. Matt Schmit (DFL) loses seat to Mike Goggin (R) 54.2 to 45.7

Yet another case where both House seats are held by Republicans, and by large margins here. 62-38 and 63-37 respectively. Schmit won his first term in 2012 with 52 percent of the vote, while Romney won the district with just over 50. Goggin is a well known name in the area as his father used to run the Red Wing Shoe Company. The DFL holds a $370,000 to $290,000 spending advantage thus far, but again that seemed not to matter.

    Senate District 24 – John Jasinski (R) defeats Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL) 58.5 to 41.3

Again, both House seats are held by Republicans and the district went for Romney in 2012. Jensen is a more moderate member of the Senate however, and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is actually backing her over her Republican challenger. Jasinski is a two-term Mayor of Faribault however, and a city council member before then, so he is not lacking in name recognition. The spending advantage for the DFL here is more than $250,000 though, but Jasinski overcame that quite handily.

    Senate District 44 – Paul Anderson (R) wins open seat against Deb Calvert (DFL) 50.13 to 49.73

Incumbent Sen. Terri Bonoff is making a run against Erik Paulsen in CD3, leaving her current seat open. Bonoff had held onto the seat while pitching a more moderate, business friendly tone. HD44A was won by Rep. Sarah Anderson (R) 56-44 in 2014, while Rep. John Applebaum (DFL) won 44B by a margin of 51-49. Both the candidates for Bonoff’s seats are longtime staffers for their respective parties. Calvert worked for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, while Anderson served as deputy chief of staff for former Governor Tim Pawlenty. This is the most expensive race thus far, with the DFL leading spending $460,000 to to $380,000. Anderson won by just 201 votes.

    Senate District 48 – Senate Majority Leader David Hann (R) loses to Steve Cwodzinski (DFL) 51.1 to 48.8

The Senate Minority Leader couldn’t hold on to a district he won 51-49 in 2012. Spending was even in this district with each party totaling around $360,000. HD48A is held by the DFL, as Rep. Yvonne Selcer won with 50.04 percent of the vote in 2012, but Rep. Jennifer Loon won 48B for the Republicans with 64 percent. Cwodzinski is a well liked retired teacher who recently moved into the district.

    Senate District 51 – Sen. Jim Carlson (DFL) defeats Victor Lake (R) 54 to 45.9

This district leans slightly Democrat across the board with close elections. Carlson won reelection in 2012 with a 53-47 margin. Both House seats are controlled by the DFL, with both races seeing margins of 51-49 in 2014. Republicans have a slight spending advantage at $79,000 to $72,000. The Chamber of Commerce is remaining neutral in this race, and the Senate DFL campaign has not poured much in the way of resources for Carlson.

    Senate District 53 – Sen. Susan Kent (DFL) defeats Sharna Wahlgren (R) 50.4 to 49.5

The district leans Democratic. Kent was reelected 52-48, and the two house districts are under split control with 58-41 and 57-43 margins of victory. Obama won the district 51-47 in 2012. In spite of this control, Wahlgren is not a typical conservative and may do well here. While she has a strong pro-business conduct, her socially moderate views and the strong backing of the Chamber of Commerce likely aided her. Kent pulled through with a margin of 399 votes though.

    Senate District 57 – Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL) holds strong against challenger Cory Campbell (R) 53.1 to 46.8

Clausen washed into the Senate with the rest of the 2012 DFL wave with a 54-46 margin of victory. Both House seats are held by Republicans who won 58-42 in 2014, while Obama won 50-48 in 2012. The DFL has a huge spending advantage here, $305,000 to $85,000. The Chamber of Commerce has remained neutral in this race as well.

    Senate District 58 – Matt Little (DFL) narrowly defeats Tim Pitcher (R) 50.25 to 49.66

This district typically leans heavily Republican, but Pitcher’s performance was woefully under expectations thus far. Spending on the part of the DFL put this district further into play. Little held a spending advantage of $82,000 to $36,000, and he needed every dollar as he won by just 268 votes.

Here are the other races where one party wrestled control of the seat from the opposition:

    Senate District 5 – Justin Eichorn (R) unseats Sen. Tom Saxhaug (DFL) 50.58 to 49.22

Eichorn had less than $10,000 in campaign funds compared to Saxhaug’s $30,000 and incumbent advantage. He somehow pulled the win off anyway, defeating the four-term Senator by 545 votes. Saxhaug had won reelection in 2012 with 52.33 percent of the vote.

Other House Gains by MN Republicans

    House District 5A – Matt Bliss (R) defeats Rep. John Persell 53.86 to 46

Four-term incumbent Persell won reelection in 2014 with more than 55 percent of the vote, but Bliss had a huge spending advantage this year. More than $207,000 was spent in total in this race, but Bliss controlled a bit over $172,000 of that.

    House District 5B – Sandy Layman (R) beats Sen. Tom Anzelc (DFL) and Dennis Barsness (Green Party) 53.61 to 42 to 4.28

Layman not only had a more than two to one spending advantage, but had Barsness siphoning votes off of Anzelc. Five-term incumbent Anzelc had last won reelection in 2014 with 56.54 percent of the vote, but finished with more than 14 points less than that.

    House District 42A – Randy Jessup (R) beats Rep. Barb Yarusso by 127 votes, 50.18 percent to 49.63

In a rematch of the 2014 race, Jessup beat out two-term incumbent Yarusso by an even slimmer margin then he lost by in 2014. Yarusso won that contest with 50.55 percent of the vote.

    House District 49A – Dario Anselmo (R) defeats Rep. Ron Erhardt 51.04 to 48.74

This is another rematch race, as Erhardt defeated Anselmo 51.38 to 48.55 percent in 2014. Anselmo had a large spending advantage this time around however, as his camp put about $230,000 into play compared with Erhardt’s about $94,000. It paid off as Anselmo was able to flip the margin to his favor this year.

    House District 52B – Regina Barr (R) beats Mary T’Kach (DFL) 51.83 to 47.93

Incumbent DFL Rep. Joe Atkins has represented the district since 2002, but is retiring from the legislature in January. He last won reelection in 2014 with more than 64 percent of the vote. Barr was able to win by 674 votes, as she outspent T’Kach by about $76,000.

    House District 54A – Keith Franke (R) defeats Jen Peterson (DFL) 51.44 to 48.45

Incumbent DFL Rep. Dan Schoen is leaving the legislature after two terms. He last was elected in 2014 with 55.52 percent of the vote. The DFL not only had that expectation going for them, but the about $24,000 spent in favor of Peterson’s campaign was about twice as much as Franke had available. Franke prevailed by 609 votes regardless.