Dayton, Franken Reelected, Republicans Capture Control of House

Flying in the face of a strong national Republican headwind, Governor Mark Dayton and United States Senator Al Franken easily won reelection last evening. Both DFL’ers were elected for their second terms after razor thin election victories in 2010 and 2008 respectively.

Dayton defeated his Republican opponent, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, by a 50 to 45 percent margin. According to various polls, Dayton had maintained a consistent lead by margins varying from 5 to 12 percent throughout the fall campaign. Although Dayton outraised and outspent his Republican opponent, Johnson was able to close the gap considerably in the final days of the campaign. Most would characterize the 2014 gubernatorial campaign as a low-key, low-budget effort on the part of both candidates. After four successful runs for statewide office, Dayton has made it clear in public comments that this will be his last run. He previously was elected to statewide office for state auditor and U.S. Senator.

Franken posted a lead in early polls this year in his bid for reelection and never looked back. Franken easily won reelection over his Republican challenger, businessman Mike McFadden, by a 53 to 43 percent margin. This also was yet another surprisingly low-key race, although it is expected that well over $20 million was spent by both candidates, not including independent expenditures poured into the race from outside sources. For most of his six year term, Franken had been expected to be a top target of national Republicans. Franken maintained relatively high marks in most polls throughout his term and became a prolific fundraiser, both key advantages in his victory over McFadden. Franken will return to the U.S. Senate as a member of the Democratic minority.

Minnesota Congressional Races

Minnesota's incumbent congressional candidates handily won reelection. There was one open seat being vacated by Michelle Bachmann in the Sixth congressional district, which covers Wright County all the way up to St. Cloud and over to Stillwater in the east. The Republican candidate Tom Emmer won handily by 18 points. 

The most hotly contested congressional race was in the Eighth congressional district in northeastern Minnesota. The incumbent, Rick Nolan, was challenged by Stewart Mills, a Minnesota businessman. This race attracted a lot of national money and attention. Nolan won by only 1.39 points.

Results of major party candidates:

District 1 

Jim Hagedorn (R) 47.71% 

Tim Walz (D) 54.15%

District 2 

John Kline (R) 56.04% 

Mike Obermuller (D) 38.87%

District 3 

Erik Paulsen (R) 62.14% 

Sharon Sund (D) 37.78%

District 4 

Sharna Wahlgren (R) 32.90% 

Betty McCollum (D) 61.19%

District 5 

Doug Daggett (R) 23.97% 

Keith Ellison (D) 70.79%

District 6 

Tom Emmer (R) 56.29% 

Joe Perske (D) 38.39%

District 7 

Torrey Westrom (R) 45.66% 

Collin Peterson (D) 54.21%

District 8 

Stewart Mills (R) 47.11% 

Rick Nolan (D) 48.50%

Minnesota House of Representatives

After the dust of yesterday’s election settled, Republicans successfully won enough seats to take control of the Minnesota House. Many races were settled by fewer than 500 votes, and as of today, more than $13 million was spent between both parties and outside groups to affect the outcome of just a handful of House races. The GOP victory upsets current top to bottom control of Minnesota’s government by the DFL, and means that elected officials will have to work with political opponents to pass legislation. It also means that new House caucus leadership and committee chairs will be selected in the upcoming days and weeks.

Republicans needed to gain 7 seats to take the majority, and many pundits believed that through a mixture of suburban and greater Minnesota districts that number was very achievable, some even predicting 11 or 12 seats. In the end, Republicans did not lose a single seat and picked up 11 with another, 48A (Eden Prairie) headed for a recount with only 36 votes separating incumbent Yvonne Selcer (DFL) from challenger Kirk Stensrud (R). It seems as though the pundits got the numbers right, but read the geography wrong.

The DFL only lost one suburban seat, 56B (Burnsville, Apple Valley). Will Morgan (DFL) lost to Roz Peterson (R). The remaining 10 Republican pick-ups were all in greater Minnesota. Many believed that races in Eagan, Edina and northern suburbs were in play, however the DFL retained control in all of those areas. Conversely, Republicans outperformed expectations in Greater Minnesota races where, in many cases, statewide DFL candidates won. As it stands today, the GOP will control the House with a margin of 72 to 62. View the 2014 Election Directory for the 2015-2016 Minnesota Legislature.

Below are the races that changed hands in the Minnesota House last evening:

House Dist. 2A 

Dave Hancock (R) 52.36% 

Roger Erickson (DFL) 47.49%

House Dist. 10A: 

Joshua Heintzman (R) 53.37% 

John Ward (DFL) 46.54%

House Dist. 10B 

Dale Lueck (R) 51.86% 

Joe Radinovich (DFL) 48.00%

House Dist. 11B: 

Jason Rarick (R) 53.68% 

Tim Faust (DFL) 46.15%

House Dist. 12A: 

Jeff Backer (R) 51.87% 

Jay McNamar (DFL) 47.94%

House Dist. 14B: 

Jim Knoblach (R) 50.15% 

Zachary Dorholt (DFL) 49.54%

House Dist. 17A: 

Tim Miller (R) 55.37% 

Andrew Falk (DFL) 44.46%

House Dist. 17B: 

Dave Baker (R) 50.66% 

Mary Sawatzky (DFL) 49.27%

House Dist. 24B: 

Brian Daniels (R) 50.87% 

Patti Fritz (DFL) 49.00%

House Dist. 27A: 

Peggy Bennett (R) 53.04% 

Shannon Savick (DFL) 39.93%

Minnesota Senate

The Minnesota State Senate was not on the ballot in 2014, but will be up in 2016, a Presidential election year. The dynamics of the 2015 legislative session will be interesting as Majority Leader Tom Bakk will begin to make policy and political decisions looking towards keeping his majority in 2016. The upper chamber, which is thought to be the steadier of the two, will be facing a much different political dynamic with a Governor in his last term, with no plans to run for reelection, and a House Republican majority that is interested in holding on to their lead for more than one term. Much of the session will be focused on the State’s budget and a transportation bill, and how the Senate and House interact on these issues remains to be seen.