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The big winner of the midterm elections in Minnesota was democracy

Where Republicans put up extremist candidates with hostility toward democracy, they lost.

Early voting taking place on East Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis.
Early voting taking place on East Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis.
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan

In Minnesota and across the country, voters showed up not just to participate in democracy but to protect it. Minnesota voters rejected election-denying candidates and chose people who put protecting the freedom to vote and our system of free and fair elections at the center of their campaigns. 

To be clear, 2022 was no normal election year. Voters went to the polls in the first statewide election since our country survived the violent Jan. 6 insurrection. The first election with vocal election deniers running up and down the ballot. The first election after the bi-partisan January 6th Committee presented overwhelming evidence that Trump and his MAGA Republican enablers engaged in a criminal conspiracy to overturn the result of the 2020 election and the will of the people.

State Rep. Emma Greenman
State Rep. Emma Greenman
Far from fading into history, the 2022 midterm highlighted how the Jan. 6 insurrection has metastasized into an active political effort locally and nationally to sabotage our elections. Since 2020, MAGA Republicans and Trump have gone all in with efforts to restrict voting, bully election officials, and cast doubt on our elections in order to reject the outcomes of elections they lose. This pattern continued with the Minnesota Republican Party endorsing a slew of extreme MAGA Republican candidates, while many Republican lawmakers chose to stay silent and cater to their most extreme followers out of political expediency and desire for power. 

Heading into this election, the threat to our democratic freedoms was squarely on the ballot in Minnesota. From the top of the ticket, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen repeatedly refused to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the 2020 election and publicly suggested that Secretary of State Steve Simon should be jailed. The Republican candidate running to be Minnesota’s chief elections officer, Kim Crockett called herself “the election denier in chief,” running for Secretary of State on an agenda spreading falsehoods about our elections and attacking Minnesotans’ freedom to vote. These themes were echoed down the ballot with MPR reporting that nearly 1in 4 Minnesota Republicans running for state legislature in 2022 questioned or outright denied the legitimacy of our elections. 

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These candidates vocally expressed their hostility towards the freedom to vote and Minnesota’s trusted system of local elections. And they lost. 

In the statewide match-up that put the issue of democracy directly to voters, Secretary of State Steve Simon soundly beat Kim Crockett and won more votes than any other statewide candidate. In Minnesota’s swing legislative districts, DFLer challengers defeated extremist election deniers, including an incumbent from Circle Pines who is a member of the Oathkeepers, and a St. Peter incumbent who attended and defended the Jan. 6 Storm the Capitol rally in St. Paul. 

What happened in Minnesota mirrors the national trend. In every competitive secretary of state race, voters rejected election denier candidates and their platform of restricting voting and overhauling the elections process. High-profile election denier candidates running for governor lost in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, and Arizona. Where Republicans put up extremist candidates with hostility toward democracy, they lost. 

Last week, voters delivered a strong mandate to protect our democratic freedoms. But if the 2020 election taught us anything, it is that threats to our democracy are not defeated with one election. Even with the electoral drumming of election deniers around the country, Congress will have more than 125 members who contested the 2020 election, including Minnesota’s Republican delegation.

With 2024 looming, the active effort to undermine faith in our elections and the will of the people continues to fester with the support of a mobilization of dark money from bad-faith national and local political actors spreading disinformation and doubt. Moreover, Donald Trump and his stolen election lies are not going away, as he has announced his campaign for president in 2024. 

In the first election after the Jan. 6 insurrection, voters across the country delivered a mandate to protect and strengthen our democratic freedoms. Here in Minnesota, voters elected a pro-democracy DFL trifecta to do that work. Now is the time to pass legislation to strengthen the freedom to vote for all Minnesotans, protect our election workers from intimidation and harassment, and ensure that it is Minnesota voters, not big corporations or the wealthy few, who are calling the shots. It is incumbent upon us to act with the urgency and boldness that voters expect and that this moment requires.

Rep. Emma Greenman is the DFL representative of Minnesota’s district 63B .