Update — Stage is Set for Nov. 6 General Election
Congressional Race Highlights
With the primary election behind us, the path is now clear for the general election on Nov. 6. All eight Minnesota congressional seats are up for grabs this year, and two districts saw prolonged and often heated primary fights to take on incumbents. In both cases, candidates who are “blasts from the past” won their primaries.
- In District 1 (southern Minnesota) relative newcomer and current state Senator Mike Parry was defeated by Allen Quist, who previously served in the state Senate from 1983-89. This race was a contest for most conservative and saw Parry lose his cool on occasion while Quist maintained a steady hand throughout. Quist will face incumbent DFLer Tim Walz.
- District 8 (Iron Range and north central Minnesota) saw the DFL struggle to get organized, and three candidates squared off for a chance to take on newcomer Congressman Chip Cravaak. Rick Nolan, who served in Congress from 1975-79, defeated recent state senator Tarryl Clark and newcomer from Duluth Jeff Anderson. Tarryl Clark had previously challenged Congresswoman Michelle Bachman in the 6th (St. Cloud and north metro).
DFL v GOP Congressional Count
Minnesota’s eight congressional seats are currently evenly split between four DFLers and four GOP members. Despite an anti-incumbent sentiment that’s been in the political waters recently, all of the incumbents appear to be safe bets for November.
- Collin Peterson (DFL, District 7), Erik Paulsen (GOP, District 3), Keith Ellison (DFL, District 5) and Betty McCollum (DFL, District 4) are in safe seats.
- DFLers think they have a chance to upset incumbent John Kline in District 2 since the new electoral map improved the DFL index.
- DFLers would also like to believe they have a shot at knocking out incumbent Michelle Bachman in District 6, but that is a tall order.
- Incumbent Walz in District 1 appears to have the edge once again, and he did survive the anti-incumbent GOP wave in 2010. CD 8 will be interesting to follow and will be very telling about the future of DFL Iron Range clout in Minnesota politics.
Legislative Races – What Happened, What to Watch
Several legislative races were settled after the primary. The tea party was very active in the west metro and was successful in taking out two incumbent GOP members who, in their view, were too moderate.
- Connie Doepke, who served on the education committee, was defeated by David Osmek by 107 votes in the senate district 33 race to replace retiring Senate Education Chair Gen Olson.
- Steve Smith, the longest serving member of the House GOP caucus, was defeated by Cindy Pugh, who is a founder of the Southwest Metro Tea Party group. Smith was criticized by conservatives for his support of unions and his opposition to the “Right to Work” constitutional ballot measure that never passed the House.
- In District 47 (Chanhassen), the tea party tried to unseat current Senate Tax Chair Julianne Ortman, but she survived the primary and will be back at the Capitol in January.
- In southwestern Minnesota, incumbent House DFLer Lyle Koenen won his bid against Larry Rice to challenge GOP Joe Gimse for the Willmar area senate seat (District 17). The District 17 race will be one to watch on election night and is one of several senate races that will determine who runs the state senate for the next four years.
Big Shoes to Fill in State
Around the state, there were a few primaries to fill some big shoes.
- House district 6B, to replace icon Iron Ranger Tom Rukavina, saw three DFLers battle it out. Jason Metsa, who garnered the most union support and Rukavina’s endorsement, won the battle.
- In house district 4A (Moorhead) Travis Reimche beat two others for the GOP nod to replace retiring state Rep. Morrie Lanning. Lanning carried the Vikings’ stadium bill and chaired the House State Government Finance committee. Reimche will face Ben Lien, who won the DFL primary.
- In house district 11A, Mike Sundin defeated Bruce Ahlgren for the DFL spot to replace retiring state Rep. Bill Hilty. Hilty chaired the House Energy committee when the DFL was in the majority. Mike Sundin had the backing of public employee unions while Ahlgren touted his experience as Mayor of Cloquet.
- In house district 2B (northwestern MN) Steve Green, a tea party favorite, beat Park Rapids businessman David Collins and will face DFLer Brita Sailer, who is trying to come back after losing her seat in 2010.
- Education Minnesota local president Mary Sawatzky, DFL, has a chance to take out newcomer Bruce Vogel, GOP, in house district 17B (Willmar).
- In the urban core of Minneapolis (59B), union endorsed Raymond Dehn clears the primary to replace Bobby Joe Champion (running for the state senate) and will be at the Capitol in January.
- In house district 11B, former state Rep. Tim Faust has a chance to come back after winning his primary.
To search primary election results go to: http://electionresults.sos.state.mn.us/enr/ENR/Home/2
What’s Behind the Scenes
In some ways, the message from the primary isn’t anything that we haven’t heard before. GOP activists think public employee unions have too much power and want to curtail them. They are willing to take out their own incumbents who get too close to union interests.
The surge of Tea Party strength was felt around the state (and nation) in republican races. On the other side of the aisle, DFL candidates seeking the main stage need public employee union support to get there. The battle between conservatives/business groups and public employee unions is an old one, but it has flared up in recent years, in large part due to the economic crisis.
The GOP majorities in the state legislature contemplated putting a question on the ballot that, if passed, would have prohibited mandatory union membership in public employee unions in Minnesota. They didn’t, but some in the GOP found themselves facing a heated constituency back home.
In the education arena, the GOP passed legislation to stem teacher seniority rights (LIFO) and Governor Dayton vetoed the measure. More recently, GOP leaders are criticizing the negotiated contract between the state of Minnesota and state employees that calls for a 2% wage increase in the next contract. Approval of the contract could be headed for a legislative battle next January.
The labor-management battle isn’t going anywhere, and if the GOP retains control of one or both bodies in the legislature, we can expect to see these issues flare up and dominate the budget battle next session. With the key social issue – marriage definition – out of the way after November and the constant stadium talk now behind us, the 2013 session is shaping up to be a bread and butter budget fight over taxes and spending.