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Tina Smith wins re-election; Collin Peterson defeated

Peterson’s defeat will bring to a close a 30-year career in Congress and ensure a new chair for the House Agriculture Committee.

The Associated Press called the U.S. Senate race for Sen. Tina Smith around midnight on Election Day.
The Associated Press called the U.S. Senate race for Sen. Tina Smith around midnight on Election Day.
REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Sen. Tina Smith has won re-election, defeating her Republican challenger, Jason Lewis.

The Associated Press called the race around midnight on Election Day. As of publication time, Smith led Lewis by around 6 percentage points with votes still to be counted.

“From the beginning, this campaign has been about what we can do to work together, find common ground, and get results for the good of Minnesota and our country,” Smith said in a statement. “Even in the midst of the great division and great challenges of this past year, I’ve always felt that Minnesotans at heart believe that we are better together. Tonight, you have shown that you want to work together and make progress.”

By the time the AP called the race, Lewis had not issued a statement.

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In Minnesota U.S. House races, the night brought one major upset: DFL Rep. Collin Peterson, the 15-term Democratic representative from Minnesota’s Seventh District, lost his race to former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach. As of publication time, Fischbach held a commanding lead of more than 14 percentage points.

Rep. Collin Peterson
MinnPost photo by Walker Orenstein
Rep. Collin Peterson
Peterson, the chair of the House Agriculture Committee, represents a district that Trump won by more than 30 points in 2016. The agriculture sector (and the sugar beet industry in particular) tried to prevent Peterson’s loss, spending a large amount of money to keep him in his seat to no avail. 

Two other House races were much closer. In the Second District, incumbent DFL Rep. Angie Craig led GOP challenger Tyler Kistner by just 154 votes, with all precincts reporting. Minnesota has a seven-day grace period for mail-in ballots received after Election Day (provided they are postmarked by Election Day) so those late-arriving ballots could make a difference in the outcome of this race.

UPDATE: As of Wednesday morning, Craig’s lead had grown to more than 9,000 votes, or two percentage points. Craig declared victory, saying,“While it took longer than expected, I have said throughout this race that every voter in our district must have an opportunity to make their voices heard – and I am so thankful to the tireless election judges that counted votes throughout the night to ensure that was the case. I am so grateful to the people of this district for giving me an opportunity to return to Congress to continue this important work – and I look forward to fighting for them in the 117th Congress.”

Even if Craig does end up winning the election, it is still unclear if she will have to run again for her seat again in the next few months. After Legal Marijuana Party Candidate Adam Weeks died, Minnesota state law dictated a special election needed to be called for the seat. But Craig challenged that law in federal court, where several judges reaffirmed that the Nov. 3 election would not be rescheduled. Tyler Kistner, Craig’s Republican opponent, is still advocating for a special election in the Federal Court of Appeals.

Minnesota’s other close race was in the First District, a rematch between incumbent GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn and DFLer Dan Feehan. As of publication of this article, and with votes still to be counted, Hagedorn led by about 10,000 votes, or 3 percentage points. That’s a bigger lead than he had in 2018 when he defeated Feehan by just 1,311 votes. Of note in 2020: Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis candidate Bill Rood got almost 20,000 votes in the election so far.

Rep. Angie Craig speaking via Zoom to a room of only media during the DFL watch party at the InterContinental St. Paul Hotel on Tuesday night.
MinnPost photo by Craig Lassig
Rep. Angie Craig speaking via Zoom to a room of only media during the DFL watch party at the InterContinental St. Paul Hotel on Tuesday night.
By midnight CST, the Associated Press had also called several Minnesota U.S. House races in favor of incumbents. Minnesota’s Third and Eighth Districts, which were both competitive districts in 2018, re-elected DFL Rep. Dean Phillips and Republican Rep. Pete Stauber, respectively. And Minnesotans re-elected three members in reliably safe districts: Republican Rep. Tom Emmer in Minnesota’s Sixth District, DFL Rep. Betty McCollum of the Fourth District, and DFL Rep. Ilhan Omar in the  Fifth District.

“We made it possible for generations more who look like us to serve,” Omar said during her victory speech at the DFL’s election night party. “And most importantly, we stood up for our humanity and dignity, and we built solidarity.”