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The 20 Minnesota legislative races to watch in 2022

The DFL has been losing support in northern Minnesota, and court-determined redistricting has changed the political map. A MinnPost analysis shows these five Senate races and 15 House races are the ones to watch in 2022.

Republicans approached the 2021 session of the Minnesota Legislature with a narrow, 34-33 majority. Then, Majority Leader Jeremy Miller saw that lead grow when two longtime DFL senators declared themselves as independents and decided to caucus with and vote with the GOP. Those two, Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook and Sen. David Tomassoni of Chisholm, are not on the ballot – Bakk retired and Tomassoni was diagnosed with and died over the summer from the neurological disease ALS.

In addition to questions over DFL support in northern Minnesota, court-determined redistricting has changed the political map. While modeling based on past election results is being used to estimate which races will be close, the only certain way of knowing how the new districts will play out is with an actual election. 

That said, two GOP-held seats are considered to be out of reach for the party. One is now held by Sen. David Senjem of Rochester, the other by Sen. David Osmek of Mound. Neither is running for reelection. And DFL hopes are low for holding Senate District 4 in northwestern Minnesota following the retirement of Kent Eken of Audubon.

The magic number is 34 seats, but only a handful of Minnesota Senate districts are truly in play. While Tomassoni’s seat is considered a likely win for the GOP, Bakk’s district is one of the major races to watch in 2022. Another is in St. Cloud, with three others in Twin Cities suburbs.

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Over the last several elections, the GOP has strengthened its hold in Greater Minnesota, while the DFL has built its strength in the suburbs around the Twin Cities. In both cases, once certain victories have moved into the tossup category and then into strongholds for the other party. 

MinnPost’s Races to Watch was compiled through multiple interviews with political observers and by looking at data from past elections. The trickiest part of the analysis is dealing with the fact that every district’s borders changed with redistricting. We used  Dave’s Redistricting Atlas to show how past elections played out using the new lines. 

The presidential results apply the Joe Biden-Donald Trump and the Hillary Clinton- Trump votes from 2020 and 2016 to the new districts. The 2016-20 composite result combines the 2016 presidential results; the 2018 special U.S. Senate race between Tina Smith and Karin Housley; the 2018 governor race between Tim Walz and Jeff Johnson; the 2018 attorney general race between Keith Ellison and Doug Wardlow; the 2020 presidential race and the 2020 U.S. Senate races between Smith and Jason Lewis. 

Independent expenditures are one indicator of how competitive outside spending groups think races are. Amounts shown are as of the pre-general deadline in October, and refer to cash spent in the races independently of campaigns. “Spent to help Democrat” includes any money spent to help the DFL candidate or hurt the Republican. “Spent to help Republican” includes any money spent to help the Republican candidate or hurt the DFLer. Data related to candidates who lost primaries are omitted. Data may not be complete due to reporting errors.

What all’s at stake in the race for the Legislature? Read more here. For a list of every candidate in all 201 Legislative races, visit our Who’s Running tool.