November 07, 2018

Minnesota Legislative Update: 2018 Election Results

On Tuesday, November 6, Minnesotans went to the polls in large numbers to vote in the first midterm election of the Trump presidency. Minnesota took center stage, as both U.S. Senate seats,all eight Congressional seats (four of them rated as toss ups or competitive), the Governor’s Office and the Minnesota House of Representatives were all decided. Overall, the DFL had a successful evening, winning two Senate seats, five of the eight Congressional seats, the Governor’s Office and three other Constitutional Offices. The DFL also flipped control of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Republicans maintained control of the Minnesota Senate by winning the Special Election in District 13. We take a closer look at each contest below. For a one-sheet summary of all races, please view our 2018 Election Scorecard.


Congressman Tim Walz (DFL) will become the 41st Governor of Minnesota in January after defeating Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (R). Walz received 54 percent of the vote to Johnson’s 42 percent. Both Democrats and Republicans began eyeing the seat when Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) announced he would not seek another term. Walz and his running mate, State Representative Peggy Flanagan, successfully carried five of the eight congressional districts. Flanagan will become the first indigenous Lieutenant Governor in Minnesota’s history. Over the next two months, a transition team will help bridge the gap between the outgoing Dayton administration and the incoming Walz administration. Commissioners for each of the agencies and the Governor’s Office staff will be announced during this time.

Minnesota Constitutional Offices

Attorney General
Congressman Keith Ellison (DFL) has successfully succeeded Attorney General Lori Swanson. Ellison beat former State Representative Doug Wardlow (R). Ellison received 49 percent of the vote to Wardlow’s 45 percent.

Secretary of State
Secretary Steve Simon (DFL) will begin his second term as Secretary of State in January after beating John Howe (R). Simon received 52 percent of the vote to Howe’s 44 percent.

State Auditor
Julie Blaha (DFL) beat former State Representative Pam Myhra (R) to become the next State Auditor. Blaha received 49 percent of the vote. Myhra received 43 percent. Current State Auditor Rebecca Otto (DFL) did not run for re-election after first being elected in 2006.

Minnesota Legislature

Minnesota has the only Legislature under divided control in the entire country.

Minnesota House

All 134 seats in the Minnesota House of Representatives were up for re-election this year. The make-up of the body is now 75 DFLers and 59 Republicans. The DFL picked up 18 seats, beating 15 Republican incumbents and winning three open seats previously held by Republicans. 15 of these seats were in the metro area.

Those incumbents losing their re-election include:

  • 5A: Matt Bliss (R – Pennington)
  • 14B: Jim Knoblach (R – St. Cloud), Chair of the Ways and Means Committee
  • 33B: Cindy Pugh (R – Chanhassen)
  • 34B: Dennis Smith (R – Maple Grove)
  • 39B: Kathy Lohmer (R – Stillwater)
  • 42A: Randy Jessup (R – Shoreview)
  • 44A: Sarah Anderson (R – Plymouth), Chair of the State Government Finance Committee
  • 48B: Jenifer Loon (R – Eden Prairie), Chair of the Education Finance Committee
  • 49A: Dario Anselmo (R – Edina)
  • 52B: Regina Barr (R – Inver Grove Heights)
  • 53B: Kelly Fenton (R – Woodbury)
  • 54A: Keith Franke (R – St. Paul Park)
  • 56A: Drew Christensen (R – Savage)
  • 56B: Roz Peterson (R – Lakeville)
  • 57B: Anna Wills (R - Rosemount)

A publicly funded recount occurs automatically when the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent for legislative races. One recount will occur in House District 5A, where former Representative John Persell (DFL – Bemidji) won the race against current Representative Matt Bliss (R – Pennington) by a mere four votes. Candidates where the margin of victory if more than 0.5 percent can request a recount, but it must be paid for by the candidate.

The House DFL will hold leadership elections at the end of this week. Current Minority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL – Brooklyn Park) will likely run for Speaker of the House. Numerous DFL legislators will vie for the Majority Leader position. The House GOP will hold leadership elections to vote on a minority leader. Rep. Kurt Daudt (R- Crown) is currently the Speaker of the House. Historically, new committee chairs and the new committee structure are announced by the end of November. Committee assignments will be finalized by the end of December.

Minnesota Senate Special Election

The Minnesota Senate, having four-year terms, was not up for re-election. However, former Senator Michelle Fischbach resigned her seat in late May to serve as Lt. Governor, leaving the Senate make-up at 33 Republicans – 33 DFLers. The Governor called for a special election to fill the Fischbach open seat to coincide with the general election. State Representative Jeff Howe (R – Rockville) beat Joe Perske (DFL – Sartell) by over 5,000 votes receiving 57.38% of the vote. Perske received 42.57%. Republicans will maintain their one-person majority.

The Senate Republicans will vote for a new President of the Senate, a position previously held by Fischbach. This election may require new appointments of committee chairs.

United States Senate

Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL) cruised to victory over State Representative Jim Newberger (R), receiving 60 percent of the vote to Newberger’s 36 percent. This will be Senator Klobuchar’s third term.

Senator Tina Smith (DFL) received 53 percent of the vote and will continue to finish out the last two years of former Senator Al Franken’s six-year term in the United States Senate after beating State Senator Karin Housley (R), who received 42 percent. Because this was a Special Election, Senator Smith will be up for election again in 2020.

United States Congress

There were four hotly contested congressional races in Minnesota this year: the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and the 8th Districts. This resulted in an unprecedented amount of money, both by candidates and outside PACs, being spent in the state on these four races. As of November 6, almost $43 million were spent on these four congressional races by outside groups.

First District
The First Congressional District, which stretches across Southern Minnesota from Wisconsin to South Dakota, has been represented by Congressman Tim Walz since 2007. In 2016, the District voted overwhelmingly for President Trump, creating hope among Republicans that the district could be flipped this year. The Republicans’ hopes were fulfilled when Jim Hagedorn, a Republican from Blue Earth beat Democrat Dan Feehan from North Mankato, winning 50.1 percent of the vote to Feehan’s 49.9 percent.

Second District
The Second Congressional District, which covers the southern part of the Twin Cities metro area all the way down to Northfield, saw a rematch between current Congressman Jason Lewis (R) and Angie Craig (DFL). Lewis beat Craig in 2016, but this year, Craig won by over 18,000 votes, receiving 53 percent. Lewis received 47 percent of the vote.

Third District
In the most expensive congressional race in the state, Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen faced off against DFL businessman Dean Phillips. The district encompasses the suburbs north, west, and south of Minneapolis. Hillary Clinton won the district in the 2016 presidential election by ten percentage points. Phillips was able to unseat Paulsen after receiving 56 percent of the vote. Paulsen received 44 percent of the vote.

Eighth District
In 2016, this district saw one of the most expensive congressional campaigns in the entire country, and this year proved to be just as expensive. Republicans were eager to pick up the seat after President Trump won the district by 15 percentage points. St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber (R) defeated former State Representative Joe Radinovich. Stauber received 51 percent of the vote. Radinvoich received 45 percent.

In the other four congressional districts, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL) was re-elected in CD4, State Representative Ilhan Omar (DFL) will take Congressman Keith Ellison’s seat representing CD5, Congressman Tom Emmer (R) will continue to serve CD6, and Congressman Collin Peterson (DFL) was re-elected in CD7.

With these results, Minnesota will send five DFLers, three Republicans and five new faces to Congress in January.

Upcoming Dates

Late Nov./Early Dec. 2018 November Budget Forecast Released
January 7, 2019 Governor’s Inauguration
January 8, 2019 First Day of the Legislative Session
February 19, 2019 Governor required to submit budget to legislature
End of February 2019 February Budget Forecast Released
Mid-March/Mid-April Legislative Committee Deadlines
May 19, 2019 Last day of Legislative Session

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