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With big assist from rural voters, GOP retakes Minnesota House

The GOP picked up 11 seats and won control of the Minnesota House. For more details on where they made their gains, see: ‘Visualizing where the GOP made its gains in the MN House

The Republican Party of Minnesota’s election night celebration was a rather dull affair — until about half past midnight.

That’s when House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt strolled into the Loews Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, representing the party’s biggest victory of the 2014 campaign — control of the 134-seat Minnesota House of Representatives.

“I’m very proud to announce we are putting an end to single-party DFL control,” Daudt told a dwindling-but-elated crowd of Republicans gathered at the hotel.

Up to that point, there had been little to cheer for Minnesota Republicans. Within minutes of polls closing, the DFL’s Al Franken had been declared the winner in the U.S. Senate race. Not long after, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton was also projected to win re-election. And by the time much of the crowd had begun to pack it up for the night, the GOP knew it had lost all three constitutional office races and two competitive congressional contests.

But as the hours ticked by and results in rural and outstate districts started rolling in, the focus shifted to Minnesota House Republicans (the state Senate is not on the ballot again until 2016). They needed a net gain of just seven seats to regain control of the lower chamber.

They got that and more. In all, the GOP picked up 11 seats, making most of their gains in rural and outstate Minnesota districts. When all the votes are tallied and finalized by the Secretary of State’s office, Republicans will have likely moved from a 73-61 minority to a 72-62 majority.

“It really was a metro-rural split tonight,” Daudt said of the result. “A lot of these rural Democrats came to St. Paul and voted with the Minneapolis and St. Paul Democrats and unfortunately they paid the price in their districts.” 

DFL House losses spanned the state, from two seats in Crow Wing and Aitkin counties, all the way to Albert Lea, St. Cloud and Burnsville. Many suburban races were very close, and at least one is headed for a recount: DFL Rep. Yvonne Selcer won her race over Republican Kirk Stensrud in the Minnetonka area by just 36 votes, a total that falls within the 0.5 percent threshold for an automatic recount in Minnesota. 

Possible impact of gay marriage vote

After two years in complete control of state government, rural DFLers faced a gauntlet of tough issues this cycle, Daudt said: Spending, MNsure, and even the sales tax on agriculture equipment repair sales, which was ultimately repealed by Democrats.

It’s possible a tough “yes” vote on legalizing gay marriage in 2013 also cost some rural representatives their seats. “It certainly, probably played a factor in those districts,” said Daudt.  

Seven DFL rural incumbents who voted to legalize marriage equality — despite the fact that their district supported an earlier constitutional ban on gay marriage — lost their seats. Yet two rural Democrats who voted against legalizing gay marriage also lost their seats Tuesday night — Willmar Rep. Mary Sawatzky and Faribault Rep. Patti Fritz. 

Daudt expected to be next speaker of the house

Control of the Minnesota House has flipped back and forth between parties over the last three election cycles, but most insiders were still guessing at the last minute about what would happen this cycle. Wave elections flipped the House from blue to red in 2010 and back to blue in 2012, but most voters showed little enthusiasm for either party as candidates knocked on doors this summer and fall.

One wild card this cycle was the massive wave of spending from outside groups, which flowed into competitive House races from both sides, topping $500,000 in single competitive House races in areas like St. Cloud and Minnetonka.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, shown on election night
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, shown on election night, is expected to become the speaker of the Minnesota House.

Daudt, himself a rural representative from Crown, Minnesota, is the likely leader of the new rural-dominated Republican caucus. His members will meet Friday to elect the next Speaker of the House, and Daudt is unaware of any challengers to his bid.

He faces the prospect of having to work with a DFL governor and a DFL-controlled Senate next year on major issues like transportation funding and the troubled sex offender treatment program. But Daudt said he’s always had a reputation as  someone who can “work across the aisle” if need be. 

“But what we are going to do is put Minnesotans first and we are going to work on solving the problems that Minnesotans care about, and the problems that Minnesotans want us to solve,” Daudt added. “If we do that and the Democrats do that, we are going to work very well together.”

Here, a look at the House seats that flipped from DFL to GOP control:

House District 2A: Dave Hancock (52.36 percent) defeated DFL Rep. Roger Erickson (47.49 percent)

House District 10A: Joshua Heintzeman (53.37 percent) defeated DFL Rep. John Ward (46.54 percent)

House District 10B: Dale Lueck (51.97 percent) defeated DFL Rep. Joe Radinovich (47.89 percent)

House District 11B: Jason Rarick (53.68 percent) defeated DFL Rep. Tim Faust (46.15 percent)

House District 12A: Jeff Backer (51.87 percent) defeated DFL Rep. Jay McNamar (47.94 percent)

House District 14B: Jim Knoblach (50.15 percent) defeated DFL Rep. Zachary Dorholt (49.54 percent)

House District 17A: Tim Miller (55.37 percent) defeated DFL Rep. Andrew Falk (44.46 percent)

House District 17B: DFL Rep. Mary Sawatzky (49.27 percent) v. Dave Baker (50.66 percent)

House District 24B: Brian Daniels (50.87 percent) defeated DFL Rep. Patti Fritz (49 percent)   

House District 27A: Peggy Bennett (53.04 percent) defeated DFL Rep. Shannon Savick (39.93 percent) 

House District 56B: DFL Rep. Will Morgan (45.83 percent) v. Roz Peterson (53.99 percent)


Comments (33)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/05/2014 - 08:13 am.

    Huh? Did SSM have an effect? Did any faithless Democrats survive in swing districts? Unless I’ve missed one, they all got their walking papers.

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 11/05/2014 - 08:52 am.


      Marriage Equality is here to stay. Though please, I implore you to not stop fighting over social issues.

    • Submitted by E Gamauf on 11/05/2014 - 08:54 am.

      You’re saying that controlling other people’s marriage rights are essential
      to a conservative mindset then?

      56% voted.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/05/2014 - 09:00 am.


      The question is, “now what?” Will they introduce legislation to eliminate same sex marriage? Will the Republican Party readopt that as a platform?

      I tend to think not. Crow all you like over this, nothing is going to change.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/05/2014 - 10:27 am.

        “Nothing is going to change”

        Ahh, but you’re wrong RB. It already has….it already has.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 11/05/2014 - 01:13 pm.


          Because a few hundred people out of a district of 17,000 that vote were able to swing a district for two years is some kind of repudiation of same sex marriage? Give me a break. Actually, this gloating must ring hollow for you in that everything that you crowed about here turned to dust for you. Your guy McFadden didn’t even make it to 8:30.
          Yeah, you had a nice national map to work with, and now we can all watch the infighting that will take place when teavangelicals will spend their time digging in their heels, attempting to pass more personhood amendments, pontificating on how this is a Christian country that should governed by Gods law. Meanwhile, an already bored electorate will figure out that a pipeline designed to offshore Canadian oil, and dismantling environmental regulations doesn’t bring them prosperity, their boss still won’t give them a raise and congress doesn’t control the price of hamburger. They’ll lash out once again in 2016 and this time it will be towards the party with 23 Senate seats to defend.

          • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 11/05/2014 - 02:10 pm.

            Holy Crap

            Wow… 23 seats to defend in 2016… and whomever the Dem nominee is (Clinton, Warren) is most likely going to have pretty long coat-tails in the general.

            The next presidential cycle is going to be… epic, in ways both bad and good.

          • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/05/2014 - 02:11 pm.

            Myron, I don’t live in Minnesota, remember? We elected Tim Scott to the Senate and he’s a rock.

            Whatever mischief Dayton & Co. manage to slip by the GOP house majority will come out of the pockets of my renters. I’m guessing they are big DFL supporters so they won’t mind.

            Sure I’d have liked to see Franken lose but he’ll spend the next six years working out of the Senate basement. I can live with that.

    • Submitted by Susan McNerney on 11/05/2014 - 09:03 am.

      “Did SSM have an effect”

      Not on any straight person’s actual marriage, if that’s what you’re asking.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 11/05/2014 - 09:27 am.

      I implore you

      Please, please make the first bill up for vote in your brand spanking new GOP house the one to repeal marriage rights. Maybe follow it up with the one to lower the minimum wage. Nothing better to set the stage for 2016. Well that and the shutdown that is now unavoidable. If there’s one thing we know about conservatives, it’s that their overconfidence after any victory knows no bounds.

  2. Submitted by Susan McNerney on 11/05/2014 - 09:02 am.

    Rural + right-wing exurbs

    Rural on its own doesn’t win that fight. They don’t have the numbers. They are unified in their aging populations and lack of diversity, a perfect match for a midterm electorate.

    In any case, we’ll see if these rural republicans are willing to reduce the tax subsidies that keep their communities artificially afloat. I’m thinking not.

  3. Submitted by Nathaniel Finch on 11/05/2014 - 09:22 am.

    Doubtful on Daudt

    I predict that Daudt will be a complete failure as House Speaker. There’s no sign that he can or will “work across the aisle,” as he says, and even less sign that he can keep his rabid caucus in line. We’ll see a lot of far out bills pass in the House and die a complete death there.

  4. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 11/05/2014 - 09:31 am.


    I just hope they continue with the stupidity of the past. This is the first time I could not bring myself to vote for a couple of GOP candidates. The one that worries me the most is Emmer, he stated quite clearly he was going to follow in Bachmanns path, and he is a lose enough cannon to be a big embarrassment, not to mention he is easily controlled by the party.

  5. Submitted by ken wilkowski on 11/05/2014 - 09:43 am.

    gop control

    and the fun begins, nothing gets done for 2yrs

  6. Submitted by Jon Lord on 11/05/2014 - 10:02 am.

    uh huh

    All I can say is the house repubs will once again have a huge rental debt but we’ll pay for it.

    Well I can say something else. This country has a painfully short memory.

  7. Submitted by Nathaniel Finch on 11/05/2014 - 11:33 am.


    It may be time to reconsider the term “Greater Minnesota.”

  8. Submitted by Andrew Kearney on 11/05/2014 - 12:01 pm.

    Marriage Equality defeated the DFL

    Briana is somewhat tentative but there is absolutely no doubt that SSM is what defeated the DFL and as Briana noted it was in the rural areas. As an example, I was able to compare the precincts in 11-B where Tim Faust lost to the last 6 elections and to the results of other DFL’ers this year. He did worse this year than in the national R wave of 2010. Rural Democrats did not show up but the main fault lies in the socially conservative bent among those who are open to cross party voting in this and other rural areas. This issue never went away-many people decided in May 2013 when the House vote was taken to punish Faust and they did. The Bullying issue just kept it alive. There is no other plausible explanation. In New Dosey Twsp how do 12 of the 22 voters support Faust but those same voters give Nolan and Dayton and others 18-20 votes?

    Sadly, because of the court ruling it was an issue that did not need to be voted upon to make it legal in MN as it turns out. What the DFL got was a lot of money but they lost the prize-control of the agenda for the common good. The interest groups need to stop treating the DFL as their errand boy and urban voters and politicians need to support their rural colleagues better because as this election proves they can’t govern on their own-they don’t have the numbers. Leaders need to articulate this to these groups and then find more strategic ways to make progress.

    If the R’s are smart they will realize that this election was a SSM fluke-an accident that gives them an opportunity and govern accordingly-there is no mandate for anything else on their agenda.The DFL mis-interpreted their 2012 victory and now have paid the price.

  9. Submitted by Mike Downing on 11/05/2014 - 12:04 pm.

    MN was an outlier yesterday

    MN obviously was an outlier in yesterday’s elections. Where the rest of the country booted out Senators who voted for the ACA, aka Obamacare. Al Franken was in fact the 60th vote for the ACA and yet he survived in this anomaly called Minnesota. So far 23 senators who voted for the ACA have lost their seats…

    Despite what the liberal commentators have said so far today on MinnPost, Kurt Daudt will be an excellent Speaker of the House and will ensure some bipartisan Billsare passed through the MN Legislature in 2015 & 2016!

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 11/05/2014 - 02:13 pm.

      Minnesota is a thought-leader, not an anomaly.

      The only thing anomalous about MN is the preponderance of good governance we’ve voted for ourselves for the past 2 election cycles.

  10. Submitted by John Appelen on 11/05/2014 - 12:08 pm.

    Lesson learned?

    Vote the will of those who elected you to represent them, or be ready to find a new job.

    Makes sense to me.

  11. Submitted by Mark Ohm on 11/05/2014 - 12:34 pm.

    It’s all about the turnout.

    The more votes, the more Democrats. The “transitional” voters who only vote in presidential election years are more likely to be Democrats. Like students. They didn’t vote. Hence the Republican victory squeakers. Seems like a recurring theme/broken record over the last decade.

    The question is whether the makeup of the Republican party has changed since they were last in power in the House. If not, they are liable to do take the same crazy votes as last time. Shutdowns. Amendments. Social issues. Can they maintain some sort of focus?

    The other issue is that the Democrats checked off nearly all their boxes over the last two years. Budget. Education repayments. Tax adjustments. Minimum wage. Gay marriage. MNSure. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. What was left to run on? Sex offenders? Transportation?

  12. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/05/2014 - 12:51 pm.

    We might as well relax

    There will be a couple months of gloating from Mr. Swift and his ilk, then a couple months of overreach as the right wing loonies propose various things, then, by the end of the 2015 legislative session, there will either be some compromises that even Republicans will vote for – thus lending support to Mr. Daudt’s otherwise-unsupported contention that he will work “across the aisle” – or state government, like the national government, will descend into gridlock once again, with right-wingers willing to damage communities, their state, and even the country in the name of some fuzzy ideology that many don’t even believe themselves, while Democrats of several stripes, not always with the cleanest of hands themselves, will find themselves in obstructionist mode, much as their Republican colleagues have been lo, these past 6 years..

    Be that as it may, a lot of voters have spoken (though not, as someone is sure to point out, a majority of those eligible to vote), so sit back and enjoy the ride as best you can. I anticipate plenty of legislative entertainment over the next two years, both locally and nationally. If Republicans continue to insist on their “all-or-nothing” strategy, their majorities will not be enough to override vetoes and other strategies, and in two years, uninformed voters will largely be blaming Republicans for the problems going unsolved rather than Democrats.

    Ferguson and this election support the notion that this country is neither post-racial nor post-partisan.

  13. Submitted by E Gamauf on 11/06/2014 - 04:59 am.

    Why did so few vote nationwide?

    That’s a big story.

    If the election was a big thing, as everyone red touts: then
    the question has to be asked for everyone, why so many across the country could not see fit to act as their own agent & vote.

    What do the Republicans know about Americans?

  14. Submitted by tiffany vanvorken on 11/06/2014 - 07:01 am.


    I don’t understand how MN voter can vote Republican for State offices and Democrate for National offices.
    It should be the opposite.
    We want conservatives in Washinton and progressives locally.
    Mn voters are not too smart.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 11/06/2014 - 12:46 pm.

      Who’s we?

      the pitiful 36% of voters that bothered to show up, Tiffany? Minnesota voters are some of the smartest in the nation. Perhaps you’d prefer to live in Mississippi?

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