It’s one week from Election Day 2014, and the race for the Minnesota House of Representatives might be the closest competition in the state right now.
It’s tough for many Minnesotans to wrap their heads around the race for the House, thanks to the sheer number of seats (there are 134 members), the scant attention given most of the races, and the limited amount of advertising that most voters will be exposed to. But Democrats currently hold a narrow 73-61 majority, which means that Republicans need a net gain of just seven seats to retake control of the chamber.
The bad news for the DFL: While both parties agree that anywhere from 15 to 20 seats in Minnesota are in play, all but a few of those contested seats are already controlled by Democrats. In other words, the party will be on the defensive just to maintain its majority, let alone increase it. In fact, in our analysis of the top 20 competitive districts, only three races offer a chance for Democrats to pick up seats from Republicans (though Democrats say there are closer to six total districts they are targeting for pickups).
The stakes are high. Republicans are in the minority in both legislative chambers and hold no major statewide office, and winning the House would give them a say in how policy and budgets are shaped over the next two years.
Attention has shifted in a handful of instances since MinnPost first looked at the state’s most competitive House races in September. In one case, political parties and outside spending groups have mostly moved on from targets in two suburban districts — DFL Rep. Ron Erhardt in Edina and GOP Rep. Mark Uglem in Champlin — where polling shows the incumbents are likely to survive their challenges this fall. Major dollars have also moved away from DFL Rep. Tom Anzelc’s Bemidji-area district, where attacks have failed to chip away at the incumbent lawmaker’s popularity. Instead, a handful of new districts in the Willmar area, St. Cloud and the suburbs are seeing an infusion of campaign cash in the final weeks of the election.
Seven days before voters go to the polls, here are the top 20 most competitive House races in the state, split into two groups: The “Watching” districts are the 15 races that offer the best chance of flipping from one party to the other, based on the district’s calculated political lean, previous election results, and the strength of the respective candidates; The “on the radar” group are five races that, as of right now, are less likely to flip, but that nonetheless bear watching.
Finally, a note about the chart below: The list of districts are split by party: Those in blue are currently held by the DFL, red are held by the GOP. In the synopses of individual races, incumbents are in bold.