Republicans expand Minnesota House majority with special election victory

Anne Neu

Despite an effort by Democrats to mobilize anger over President Donald Trump’s first weeks in office, Republican Anne Neu won a highly watched Minnesota House special election in the northern Twin Cities exurbs Tuesday night. 

Neu defeated DFL challenger Laurie Warner in House District 32B with 53 percent of the vote, after a blitz of campaigning from both sides. It was the only missing result of the 2016 election, after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in September that the seat’s incumbent, Rep. Bob Barrett, did not actually live in the district. 

Neu is not new to politics: She’s worked for the House Republicans’ campaign operation and worked on former U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack’s campaign. She lives in North Branch where she homeschools her five children, ranging from 8 to 17 years old, and ran on a message of health care reform and tax cuts, and promoting a pro-life and gun-rights agenda.

“I’m grateful to Chisago County residents for their support and trust to be their new voice in the Legislature,” Neu said in a statement. “I’m eager to roll up my sleeves and get to work with my House colleagues working to make healthcare more affordable, cut taxes for families, and build a budget that respects Minnesota taxpayers.”

Warner isn’t a political newcomer either. She previously lived in Duluth and served on the city council there before moving to North Branch. She was running for the seat long before the court ruling upended the campaign, so she shifted her strategy to try and win the special election.

The district has been trending more conservative for years. In 2012, Barrett won a tough re-election contest over former DFL Sen. Rick Olseen by about 400 votes. In 2014, he was challenged by Warner, and won with more than 10 percentage points. Last fall, Trump carried the district with 60 percent of the vote. 

Laurie Warner
Laurie Warner

No matter which way it went, the result wasn’t going to change control of the chamber. After Tuesday, Republicans now control the Minnesota House 77-57, a 20-seat advantage that was part of a wave of GOP victories across the country.

Democrats hoped to play on unhappiness in the first weeks of Trump’s administration over the president’s controversial travel bans and bungled appointments. It didn’t work, but as the results rolled in Tuesday night, some political observers suggested that the closeness of the race in a district where Trump won so handily signaled dissatisfaction with the GOP.

“Remember Trump won 61-30 in Chisago County,” former DFL Rep. Jeremy Kalin tweeted. “And this special election is within a few [percentage] points. Already an anti-GOP backlash?”

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Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 02/15/2017 - 09:30 am.

    Again, regular folks looking for a job

    don’t feel the way many on the left do about deporting illegals with felonies (they want them gone, so did Obama administration), public schools are in decline they want it fixed not defended, they want to be safe at home and have access to health insurance they can afford. The liberals feel “cause Du Jour” and rallies that decry every move Trump makes is the way to motivate voters. I’ve stated here for years the Dems have lost over 1,000 seats, Governorships and White House due to policies not protests…

    A change in policy is what they need not another protest!

    • Submitted by Julie Moore on 02/15/2017 - 10:14 am.


      Neither party is giving us anything. The republican group hasn’t even put anything out there. They need to make decisions based on facts and what is right, not on emotion. But emotion gets the vote. It just shows by what she targeted: pro-life and gun rights. Once again, nothing will get done. But this time we will blame the other side.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/15/2017 - 12:57 pm.

      And you recommend doing what?

      “regular folks looking for a job new don’t feel the way many on the left do about deporting illegals with felonies (they want them gone, so did Obama[gong] administration).”

      First of all, how many “illegals with felonies” are there in Minnesota and which jobs are they preventing “regular folks” from getting?

      Second of all, the national unemployment rate in December was 4.7%. Minnesota’s was 3.9% . . . How much lower would MN’s rate be if all those “illegals with felonies” were rounded up and deported? 3%? 2.5%? 0% maybe?

      Next, “public schools are in decline they want it fixed not defended.”

      What policies do you recommend for fixing that?

      “they want to be safe at home”

      Not sure what you mean by that, but if you’re talking about people being attacked by illegal felons, or legal refugees and immigrants, when was the last time that happened within in 1,000 miles of any of the regular MN folks you know? Where and when has that happened?

      Or maybe you were talking about something else. Don’t know. You didn’t say. Whatever is it that’s making regular folks feel UNsafe, what new policies need to be implemented to help them feel safe (again)?

      “and have access to health insurance they can afford.”

      Same question . . . Besides “get rid of Obamacare,” what policy suggestions do you have for making that a reality?

      For example, here’s a fresh, real world policy proposal from a liberal Democrat . . .

      “Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday called on lawmakers to open the MinnesotaCare insurance plan to anyone, introducing a government-managed option to compete against private company offerings that have left many buyers with sticker shock in recent years . . .

      “The Dayton administration said the new MinnesotaCare enrollees would pay roughly $470 per month in premiums and some would still qualify for federal tax subsidies. Those rates wouldn’t vary by where a person lives, unlike private plan premiums offered now.”

      Seeing as how Republicans have been making the sky-high cost of (private sector) “individual market” premiums a “Bloody Murder!” issue lately — because individuals and families in that “market” are being forced (by insurance companies) to pay $20,000 and $30,000 per year ($1,500 to $2,500 per month and more) — opening MinnesotaCare to those people (and others) sounds like a REAL good policy idea to me.

      Hard to understand why, but I assume you disagree with that, probably think it’s a terrible idea, etc. And that’s fine. But it IS a real, tangible, specific, completely workable policy proposal that would accomplish what you say regular folks want: “access to health insurance they can afford.”

      If you don’t think that’s a good or valid policy proposal, what real, tangible, specific, workable policy proposal do you suggest be implemented instead?

      • Submitted by joe smith on 02/15/2017 - 03:46 pm.

        Bill, regular folks don’t want one

        Illegal alien here who has committed a felony. That is for safety not employment. Schools in decline, what to do?? Change it, not that complicated. Get the Federal Govt out of it, let states control their education without DC interference. Get back to the basics with reading, writing, math and problem solving. Put industrial arts back in (elites in Ed dept think working with your hands is beneath them, it is not) many kids are not interested in college and folks need plumbers, electricians, mechanics, welders and builders. Again, America was number 1 in the 1970’s in education, introduce the Education Dept, bang we are now 35th with under 50% of kids in the Mpls school district at grade level in math/reading in 9th grade. After 10 years of public schools they can’t read or do math, you think maybe a change is in order? Vouchers, private schools and charters to introduce competition so maybe if public schools had to compete for tax dollars they might improve.

        Health insurance solution, get the Federal Govt out of it unless you want to see our healthcare become the VA across America. The Federal Govt has ruined the Veterans Administration healthcare with incompetence.. So you want them to run 18% of our countries economy with control over the healthcare industry? Not me!! Try to let folks shop across state lines and get plans they want and can afford. Make plans portable not tied to one job or another. Get health savings accounts that grow tax exempt and allow folks to join associations that fit them so they can use large numbers of people to drive down prices.

        • Submitted by Nick Foreman on 02/15/2017 - 04:43 pm.

          Anyone, who actually believes that policies from

          For-profit health insurers will result in lower health care costs for the middle class, is simply delusional. They don’t care about healthcare or pre-existing conditions or pay for doctors, they just want tons of money. As for schools, there are private religious schools teaching kids that the earth is 6000 years old in this state. The MN constitution speaks only to public schools.

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/15/2017 - 08:56 pm.


          States did a really good job without the Feds making sure that white folks went to one school and blacks went to another, got almost identical situations today, especially in the south, so, that means you are pro segregation especially in the school systems?
          So illegal aliens commit all the crimes? We and our kids don’t have to be afraid of home grown folks like Danny Heinrich etc.?
          Back to the basics? What about computer science, physics, psychology, sociology, philosophy, business, finance etc, or are these all junk science issues?
          Working with hands? That is a pretty cheap shot! Please provide some evidence, that all across America it was only Lefties, and no nighties on these school boards for th l ast 50 years! The attached article suggests its the sphincter tight Righties!

          Health insurance: In case you are unaware, the government is not in the business unless its medicare or medicaid (Its our private industry that is doing such a wonderful job. But feel free to kick grandpa Al, with the heart problem, and aunt Alice with her diabetes to the curb, along with 14 year old Mary Kay that was born quadriplegic, and 12 year old Booby Joe that is a little mentally handicapped! Thes folks can’t afford near anything, and since they don’t/can’t work, hey I suppose they could contribute to a health savings account but for there is no income, kick-em to the curb! But of course we’ll let the states do the kicking, it’s only proper, especially in states like South Carolina, $1 in to the feds $8 back. And those large numbers of people that have chronic conditions, pu thtme all in the smae pool, that will really drive prices down!

  2. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/15/2017 - 10:16 am.


    May be a sign of the times:
    Fear that you are going to take my gun away, same old worn out BS, Fear you are going to take my religion away, same old BS, but I’m ok to enforce mine on yours. Health care? Thought Obama care was going to be repealed on the first day, got all the majorities what is the problem? Seems the only thing we have seen from the red side of the isle, is lets increase corporate profits, by allowing them to increase pollution, (reduce regulations) lets allow Wall Street to deceive more consumers and rob their 401Ks etc. (reduced regulations) lets let the government, (read our personal religious beliefs) tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies, Seems like republicans are like Trump, just can’t keep their hands off of women’s privates! Yep, guess polices that allow minorities to gain some equality, scares (more fear) those rural white folks, The world is changing and some folks are easily motivated by fear, want to keep turning the clock back, like Putin and the Russians, wonder if there is any relationship there?

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/15/2017 - 10:20 am.

    Too easy

    If the DFL hopes to succeed in outstate Minnesota, it’s going to have to do better than hope Donald Trump’s ineptitude will somehow translate into DFL seats in the legislature. It’s too easy—and it fails to address the 2016 electoral disaster—for DFL officials to claim that the closeness of this race somehow provides reason for optimism when compared to the margin by which Trump carried the district in November. Trump will display ineptitude and selfishness and greed on a scale we’ve never before seen in the White House, and it won’t make an iota of difference outside the Twin Cities metro unless/until the DFL figures out what issues resonate with voters in those outstate districts, and how the DFL can craft a more effective message, yes, but more importantly, a more effective program, or set of programs, to address those issues.

    I don’t think that necessity automatically means caving in to the right wing agenda being pursued by the latest version of the Republican Party. Reproductive choice, for example, is, and ought to be, a woman’s right, and ought not to be subject to review by males, whether strangers or husbands. Republicans who claim to be “pro-life” generally are not, as evidenced by Ms. Neu’s contradictory “pro-life” and “pro-gun” positions. She may be “pro-birth,” but “pro-life” would include being anti-war, anti-hunting, and probably vegan policy positions (and dietary choices). You’ll pardon me if I don’t hold my breath waiting for a rural Minnesota Republican to adopt those stances. The fact that she’s home-schooling 5 children suggests that she’s hostile to public education, as well, which is not not good news for the general public, either.

    The task for the DFL is to find a way to address these and other thorny issues in a way that’s not perceived as necessarily “pro-urban,” or “metro-centric,” or particularly “liberal,” but as policies and programs that aim to benefit all Minnesotans, urban and rural alike, white and minority alike, male and female alike. “Identity politics” strikes me increasingly as a political dead end, and while addressing the needs of people of color, recent immigrants, and others out of the mainstream is a legitimate responsibility of state, county and local government, it can’t be done in a bubble that fails to acknowledge the concerns of the mainstream. I’m not smart enough to have those policies and programs at the tip of my fingers, but it seems to me that that’s the task of smarter and more creative people in the DFL hierarchy. There are plenty of good people in the Republican Party, but the modern Republican Party’s philosophy, at least as it’s been practiced in recent years, is cancerous, and left unaddressed, it will kill the state’s economy and way of life, while benefiting the few at the expense of the many. The task of the DFL is to find a cure.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/15/2017 - 12:27 pm.

      Broad Brush?

      Home schoolers are automatically assumed to be “hostile” to public education? Based on what?

      Before I die, I will need the services of painters, plumbers, attorneys, tax preparers, nurses, auto mechanics, and on and on. Most of those people will be educated in public schools. Which is why I and many other home schoolers support public education.

      We’re not all a bunch of Bible thumping evangelicals who voted for Trump. Some of us took actually voted in a manner consistent with our religious values.

      • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/15/2017 - 05:31 pm.

        Broad brush

        My apologies, Frank, and you’re the exception to the rule—at least in my experience, which is the only experience I have to go by. I don’t know hundreds of home-schooling families, but the few that I do know are pretty much as you’ve characterized them: Bible-thumping evangelicals who voted for Trump. They do not, however, support public education, I suspect because they haven’t thought it through enough to realize that many, if not most, of the people they’ll be relying on in life will be products of the public education system the right spends so much time vilifying.

        That said, you’re correct: Too broad a brush. Mea Culpa.

  4. Submitted by joe smith on 02/15/2017 - 10:56 am.

    I for one, am glad it will take a 1/2 year to

    a full year to unpack the disaster that is Obamacare. It took the special interest groups that wrote the law a year to get all their needs met (while screwing the middle class) and 6 years of disastrous roll outs, businesses increasing deductibles by 200% to control costs, actual paying folks (small businesses not hiring over 50 employees) not being able to afford it, expansion of Medicaid (touted by liberals as Obamacare) causing 50% of Docs not to accept Medicaid patients and rationed care… Please take your time and get this disaster right!

    We don’t need another Pelosi “let’s pass it to find out the goodies in it” situation. I know the liberals want Trump to fail but he has only be in the office under a month folks!!

  5. Submitted by Aaron Albertson on 02/15/2017 - 03:46 pm.

    This is Chisago County

    Not a shock seeing trump won the SD 61-31

  6. Submitted by Jerilyn Jackson on 02/16/2017 - 09:08 pm.


    Is working for the Republicans exactly as it was meant to.

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