Minnesota Capitol

MSGA Bulletin: Breaking down 2016 election results

It was an eventful election in many races throughout the country and here in Minnesota. In the presidential race, Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won Minnesota (46 percent – 1,364,061) over Republican Donald Trump (45 percent – 1,324,118).

The battle for the State Legislature was fought in small rural towns, regional centers, and the populous suburbs.

While Republicans keep the Minnesota House majority and take control of the Senate, Republican legislative majorities still have one major roadblock to their agenda in St. Paul: DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. He’s still in office for the next two years, and he knows what it’s like to go head-to-head with an all GOP Legislature. His first two years in office in 2011 and 2012 were opposite a Republican House and Senate.

Minnesota Factors

Unhappiness over big projected jumps in healthcare coverage costs for people who buy coverage outside of an employer, a byproduct of the federal Affordable Care Act, may have been a tipping point in some greater Minnesota legislative races.

The Trump Republican wave that poured over Minnesota and across the nation on Election Day appeared to buoy local GOP candidates in greater Minnesota and in congressional races.

Minnesota House of Representatives

Republicans held a 12-seat advantage over Democrats, 73 to 61, in the Minnesota House before Election Day. Democrats needed to gain seven seats to win majority control.

The GOP has maintained their majority in the House while flipping four metro-area DFL seats.  

The seats lost by the DFL include:

  • House District 5A (HD5A), John Persell;
  • HD5B, Tom Anzelc;
  • HD49A, Ron Earhardt;
  • HD42A, Barb Yarusso;
  • HD54A, no incumbent;
  • HD54B, no incumbent.

Despite the GOP losing HD57A with no incumbent and HD50B held by Chad Anderson, they will be heavily favored in HD32B in a special election that will take place on February 14, 2017. Courts ruled earlier this year that Republican incumbent Rep. Bob Barrett did not technically live in the district. This district trends Republican.

History was also made another way Tuesday in the House. In House District 60B, which includes parts of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, southeast Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis organizer Ilhan Omar won election and will become the nation’s first Somali-American legislator.

The Republicans retain the House majority including a three seat gain with 76-57 seats being held by the GOP.

Minnesota Senate

Before the election, Democrats held a 10-seat advantage over Republicans in the Senate, 38-28, with one vacant seat. Republicans needed to gain six seats to take control of the body.

Senate Republicans surprised everyone and flipped the chamber by one vote, 34-33, toppling several senior Democratic senators in rural Minnesota. In 2011 and 2012, they controlled the Senate for the first time in nearly 40 years.

The following Senate seats lost by the DFL include:

  • Senate District 1 (SD1), no incumbent;
  • SD2, Rod Skoe;
  • SD5, Tom Saxhaug;
  • SD17, Lyle Koenen;
  • SD20, Kevin Dahle;
  • SD21, Matt Schmit;
  • SD24, Vicki Jensen;
  • SD44, no incumbent.  

Several DFL incumbents lost important races. Most notably, current Senate Tax Chair Rod Skoe lost to Republican challenger, Paul Utke.

DFLers did picked up victories in SD48 previously held by David Hann, and SD58 which had no incumbent.

Democrats also flipped a key race. Senate Minority Leader, David Hann narrowly lost his Eden Prairie seat to DFL challenger Steve Cwodzinski, a retired government and American history teacher who is new to politics but provided strong competition.

Legislator pay amendment passes 

Minnesotans overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment to remove the power from legislators to set their own pay. The amendment, which passed with nearly 77 percent of ballot-casting Minnesotans filling in the “yes” box, calls for a 16-member independent commission that will decide on how legislators should be compensated. 

Presidential

Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won Minnesota (46 percent – 1,364,061) over Republican Donald Trump (45 percent – 1,324,118). Although Clinton won the state, Donald Trump shocked many by how well he performed and how close he came to pulling off another upset in the Upper Midwest.

Nineteen of 87 Minnesota counties that voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 flipped to Trump Tuesday, shifting about 50,000 votes.

Minnesota has been reliably Democratic, although it has not been a landslide state. Back in 2000, George W. Bush and Al Gore came within about 59,000 votes of each other in Minnesota. Minnesota was the only win for native son Walter Mondale in 1984, but Mondale only beat President Ronald Reagan by 3,700 votes.

Congress

Three U.S. House races in Minnesota were some of the most closely watched in the nation, although none of the eight flipped from its current party.

In the 2nd Congressional District, DFLer Angie Craig and Republican Jason Lewis campaigned to replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline. Lewis won roughly 47 percent of the vote to Craig’s 45 percent.

The 8th Congressional District rematch between incumbent DFL U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and Stewart Mills was one of the most competitive and one of the most expensive U.S. House races in the country. Nolan prevailed after Republicans hoped support in the district for Trump would lift Mills in a district that has historically been Democratic.

In the 3rd Congressional District, DFLers worked hard throughout the campaign to tie Trump and Erik Paulsen together. In the end, incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen defeated state Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka. Paulsen fits the district very well and most Republicans were comfortable with his re-election.

Congressman Tim Walz will return to Washington to represent Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, but the outcome of Tuesday’s election was just about as close as possible. The former teacher from Mankato eked out a razor-thin win over Republican challenger Jim Hagedorn of Blue Earth. Walz capturing 169,080 votes, or a shade over 50 percent of the total. Hagedorn, by comparison, had a total of 166,533, or nearly 50 percent. 

Republican Tom Emmer comfortably won re-election as did DFL U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison.

Full state election results can be found here.