Filing for Minnesota’s 201 state House and Senate seats closed on June 5. All but four of the seats have candidates from at least two major political parties. Incumbents without challengers include:
- Terry Morrow (House DFL)
- Joe Hoppe (House GOP)
- Tony Cornish (House GOP)
- Kathy Sheran (Senate DFL)
When the retirement dust finally settled, a total of 46 incumbents did not file to run for re-election. Thirty House members (16 GOP and 14 DFL) and 16 Senators (11 GOP and 5 DFL) either were paired with fellow incumbents, lost their endorsement or just decided enough was enough. Three incumbents, Senate Tax Chair Julianne Ortman (GOP Chanhassen), Rep. Connie Doepke (GOP Minnetonka) who is running for the Senate and Rep. Steve Smith (GOP Mound) did not get endorsed and are running in August primaries.
Battlegrounds for the Legislature
The GOP currently hold majorities in both the House and Senate, but not by large margins. The House GOP has a 72-62 majority and the Senate GOP has a 37-30 majority. Most agree that the new legislative district map is very competitive.
Voter turnout will weigh heavily on who runs the legislature in January. In 2010, Minnesotans turned out 54% for the vote, which brought new GOP majorities and Gov. Dayton in by a razor thin margin. With this being a presidential election year, voter turnout will be high. Minnesota historically posts nation leading 70+% turnouts when the presidency is being decided.
The House GOP has 55 incumbents running compared to 45 DFL incumbents in the race to 68. The Senate GOP has 27 incumbents running compared to 24 DFL incumbents in the race to 34. There are 11 Senate races that involve current House members running for open Senate seats. Of these about four are GOP and two are DFL shoo-ins. The GOP has the incumbent edge, but DFLers are hoping to make big gains with big voter turnout.
One thing remains to be seen is how the two constitutional ballot measures will affect voter turnout. Minnesota voters get to decide on the definition of marriage and whether or not voters will have to provide government issued ID to vote. Republicans are hoping these two issues drive out their base to vote, but DFL are banking the same is true for their base.
Where will the majorities be won? There is a lot of safe political turf out there for the two parties. The urban core is solidly DFL and many exurban and pockets of rural Minnesota are safe for the GOP. Northern Minnesota is a major battleground with six incumbents paired against each other. Reps Tom Anzelc (DFL Balsam Township) and Carolyn McElfatrick (GOP Deer River); Reps Larry Howes (GOP Walker) and John Persell (DFL Bemidji); Senators Tom Saxhaug (DFL Grand Rapids) and John Carlson (GOP Bemidji) face off in November and determine the balance of political power north of Highway 2.
There are so many battleground areas this year. Voters in regional centers like Bemidji, Grand Rapids, St. Cloud, Willmar and Moorhead and throughout suburbia will determine the legislative majorities next session. The stakes are high. Gov. Dayton wants DFL majorities to push through tax reforms that net new revenue to deal with the state’s structural deficit to prevent further budget cuts. GOP leaders want to reduce state business taxes believing Minnesota needs to improve its business climate.
Blandin Awards $200,000 to MREA
The Blandin Foundation’s Board of Directors approved Friday a $200,000 grant to MREA to launch a professional development program in Northern Minnesota to enhance academic achievement in grades 5-12. The program aims to equip students in five MREA school districts to address the complex intellectual challenges work, civic participation, and managing personal affairs in the contemporary world. The five participating districts include: Bagley, Clearbrook-Gonvick, Fisher, Kelliher, and Laporte. A similar statewide effort in Iowa has shown remarkable growth in student achievement scores in mathematics, reading, science, and social studies over the past five years.
Teacher Evaluation: Grading Criteria Identified
Curt Rock, an elementary teacher in Foley Public Schools who serves on the Minnesota Teacher Evaluation Working Group, is providing regular updates on the progress for MREA. The Working Group is charged with developing a new evaluation system for Minnesota teachers, as mandated by the legislature as part of a law passed during the 2011 special session.
The group first met in May and is comprised of a diverse representation of roles, geography, and district size. Members are evaluating models used by other states across the nation as well as opportunities to mirror the principal evaluation model recently created in Minnesota. The task force identified a four-part grading scale that is reflective of what is used by almost every model in the nation. Members will continue to discuss the details of the grading system as well as key criteria at the next meeting on Tuesday.
The Work Group also has been divided into six sub-committees to focus on specific tasks, ranging from student achievement data and performance standards to professional development and implementation. Get more information and view the documents on the Minnesota Department of Education site (http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/Welcome/AdvBCT/TeacEvalWorkGrp/index.html)
Board of Teaching: Hoffman to Represent MREA
Allen Hoffman has been appointed MREA’s representative on the Minnesota Board of Teaching Standards and Rules Committee. Hoffman is a former executive director and chair of the Board of Teaching. He currently serves as a faculty member at Minnesota State University-Mankato, where he provides teacher preparation classes, in addition to his part-time role as superintendent of Comfrey Public Schools. Hoffman has been active in education since receiving his bachelor’s from the University of Minnesota in 1978. He has a Master’s in Spanish Education from Minnesota State University-Mankato, where he also earned his principal and superintendent licenses. He has received a series of honors, including Minnesota Teacher of Excellence.