November’s election brought significant changes for the state legislature that will convene on Jan. 8. After a two-year stint in the majority, the GOP caucuses were returned to minority status by the voters. Senate DFLers will enter session with a 39-28 majority. The House DFL returns with a 73-61 majority.
A number of factors contributed to the DFL takeover of the legislature, but the most significant factor is high voter turnout in Minnesota for presidential elections. Despite talk of Minnesota becoming a swing state, voters delivered the state handily (+8 percent) for President Obama. About 76 percent of eligible voters turned out compared to 54 percent in 2010 and 74 percent in 2008. Gridlock over the state’s budget, a government shutdown and frustration with a social agenda aimed at the constitution also contributed to voters deciding to give DFLers the nod.
Minnesota’s new political map certainly favors the metropolitan area with less than half (30 out of 67) state Senate seats outside of the seven-county metropolitan area. Likewise 60 out of 134 House seats are outside the metro area. Outstate Senate seats lean slightly in favor of the GOP, which has 16 of those seats compared to the DFL’s 14. The GOP also has a slight edge of 32 outstate House seats compared to 28 DFL. Given the DFL’s dominance in the Minneapolis and St. Paul urban core, the legislative majorities are decided in the suburbs.
The suburban DFL crowd entering the Capitol in January is being described as moderate and pragmatic. This isn’t different from the recent past, but this time around, we can expect these suburban DFLers to push back against an aggressive liberal agenda from their urban counterparts. Suburbanites are the ones who bear the brunt of “correction elections” whereby voters take out their angst at perceived overreaching by any particular party. Just ask any number of incumbent GOP legislators who won’t be back in St. Paul in January. View the new leadership.