Skip to Content

Support MinnPost

Minnesota Election 2018: Who’s running

No matter what happens, 2018 will be a banner year in Minnesota politics.

An open seat in the Minnesota governor’s office has already attracted more than a dozen candidates in both parties, which has in turn created a vacuum that’s left other state offices with open — and suddenly competitive — races.

And the unexpected resignation U.S. Sen. Al Franken has put both of Minnesota's U.S. Senate seats on the ballot next fall. Those races anchor a ticket that also includes up to five competitive congressional races, all state constitutional officers and the entire Minnesota House.

Bookmark this page — we'll be adding Franken's Senate seat after his resignation is official and updating it throughout the year as candidates enter and leave all the races.

Governor

After two terms in the governor’s office, Democrat Mark Dayton is stepping down, leaving a wide open field that has plenty of candidates clamoring to get in. On the DFL side, that includes one member of Congress, one state auditor, one big-city mayor and three legislators. For Republicans, several party activists, the former party chairman, one Hennepin County and one Ramsey County commissioner and at least one state legislator have jumped in. House Speaker Kurt Daudt’s name is frequently mentioned in discussions about the race, but he has yet to announce his future plans.

DFL

  • Tim Walz
  • The former Mankato high school coach and history and social studies teacher has been serving as a Democrat in the 1st Congressional District since 2006 and is making his first bid for statewide office.

    From: Mankato

    Entered the race on: March 27, 2017

    Campaign website: http://www.walzforgovernor.org/

    Close
  • Rebecca Otto
  • A three-term state DFL state auditor, Rebecca Otto previously served a term in the Minnesota House and served on the Forest Lake Area School Board. She's touring the state doing listening sessions ahead of the campaign.

    From: Marine on St. Croix

    Entered the race on: January 9, 2017

    Campaign website: https://www.rebeccaotto.com/

    Close
  • Erin Murphy
  • Erin Murphy is a St. Paul DFL House representative and nurse who spent two years as the chamber’s majority leader, running campaigns for the caucus.

    From: St. Paul

    Entered the race on: December 13, 2016

    Campaign website: http://www.murphyformn.com/

    Close
  • Chris Coleman
  • The former prosecutor, St. Paul City Council member and current three-term mayor of St. Paul is making his first official run at the governor’s office, after exploring a run in 2010. He’s touting his work guiding St. Paul through the recession and securing major projects like a Major League Soccer stadium.

    From: St. Paul

    Entered the race on: November 17, 2016

    Campaign website: https://www.colemanforgovernor.com/

    Close
  • Tina Liebling
  • Tina Liebling is a DFL House member from Rochester with a reputation as a policy wonk. Representing the district that’s home to the Mayo Clinic, she’s drilled in on health care issues.

    From: Rochester

    Entered the race on: April 2, 2017

    Campaign website: https://www.tinaliebling.com/

    Close
  • Paul Thissen
  • Paul Thissen is a lawyer, representative from Minneapolis and former Speaker of the Minnesota House. Now, he’s taking his second run at the governor’s office, talking about growing the middle class and making government more accessible.

    From: Minneapolis

    Entered the race on: June 15, 2017

    Campaign website: http://www.paulthissen.com/

    Close
  • Captain Jack Sparrow
  • Captain Jack Sparrow ran for Minneapolis mayor in the last election and is now seeking statewide office.

    From: Minneapolis

    Entered the race on: December 4, 2017

    Close

Republican

  • Keith Downey
  • Keith Downey represented Edina in the Minnesota House before losing an expensive bid for the state Senate in 2012. He went on to be the chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota and is now touting his work as a business consultant and government reformer in his bid for governor.

    From: Edina

    Entered the race on: July 24, 2017

    Campaign website: https://www.downeyforgovernor.com/

    Close
  • Matt Dean
  • Matt Dean is a seven-term Republican House member from Dellwood who previously served two years as House majority leader. He’s currently chair of the Health and Human Services Finance Committee and is running on eliminating MNsure, Minnesota’s health insurance exchange.

    From: Dellwood

    Entered the race on: April 26, 2017

    Campaign website: http://mattdeanforgovernor.com/

    Close
  • Jeff Johnson
  • Former Minnesota House representative and current Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson ran for governor in 2014, losing to Gov. Mark Dayton. In 2018, he’s running again with a message focused on “…taking power away from government and giving it back to the people.”

    From: Plymouth

    Entered the race on: May 10, 2017

    Campaign website: http://www.johnsonforgovernor.org/

    Close
  • Dave Osmek
  • Osmek is a two-term state senator known for his conservative approach to the budget. He works as a project manager for United Health Group.

    From: Mound

    Entered the race on: August 22, 2017

    Close
  • Jeffrey Ryan Wharton
  • From: Redwood Falls

    Entered the race on: March 20, 2017

    Close
  • Ole Savior
  • Ole Savior is a perennial candidate for office in Minnesota, usually running as a Democrat. But he ran for president as a Republican for president in 2012, and this cycle, he’s throwing his name in for the governor’s race as a Republican.

    From: Minneapolis

    Entered the race on: January 18, 2017

    Close
  • Phillip Parrish
  • A school teacher, Phillip Parrish is seeking the governor's office focusing on constitutional issues.

    From: Kenyon

    Entered the race on: February 3, 2017

    Campaign website: https://parrish4mn.com/

    Close
  • Nickolay Bey
  • From: Woodbury

    Entered the race on: May 10, 2017

    Close
  • Bob Carney
  • A perennial candidate for office with a focus on transportation issues, Bob “Again” Carney, Jr. recently suspended a campaign for mayor of Minneapolis to join the growing field for governor in Minnesota.

    From: Minneapolis

    Entered the race on: August 23, 2017

    Campaign website: http://www.votebobagain.com/

    Close
  • Lance Johnson
  • Lance Johnson is an attorney who previously served as head of the Minnesota Department of Commerce under Gov. Harold LeVander in the 1960s.

    From: Woodbury

    Entered the race on: September 11, 2017

    Close
  • Mary Giuliani Stephens
  • Mary Giuliani Stephens is the first woman to step into the Republican field for governor. She's running on her executive experience as mayor of Woodbury and changing the "culture" in the governor's office.

    From: Woodbury

    Entered the race on: November 29, 2017

    Campaign website: https://maryformngov.com/

    Close
  • Christopher William Chamberlin
  • Christopher William Chamberlin is a Republican activist who was inspired by President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. He was initially running for governor but dropped out to seek the Senate seat after Al Franken's announced resignation.

    From: St. Cloud

    Entered the race on: November 24, 2016

    Left the race on: December 7, 2017

    Campaign website: http://chamberlinformn.com/

    Close
  • Blake Huffman
  • Blake Huffman is a Ramsey County Commissioner and former vice president with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. After announcing his run for governor in April, he suspended his campaign in September 2017, citing demands of his role as a county commissioner.

    From: Shoreview

    Entered the race on: April 19, 2017

    Left the race on: September 4, 2017

    Campaign website: http://blakehuffmanforgovernor.com/

    Close

Independence

Attorney General

Current DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson hasn’t yet announced if she’s seeking another term as the state’s top attorney, but the large number of fellow Democrats jumping into the race suggests she’s eyeing a different job in 2018. Contenders on the Democratic side include two current DFL state representatives who are lawyers and a former representative with a law degree. Democrats have held the attorney general's office since 1971, but Republicans are also excited about the possibility of an open seat. A former Republican representative and a longtime attorney and party activist are already in the mix.

Republican

  • Doug Wardlow
  • Doug Wardlow served one term as a Republican House member from Eagan and is now seeking the endorsement for attorney general, saying he will protect citizens from government and its "bullies."

    From: Eagan

    Entered the race on: March 1, 2017

    Campaign website: https://www.facebook.com/DougWardlowforAG/

    Close
  • Harry Niska
  • A longtime Republican activist and attorney in private practice, Harry Niska sought the attorney general job, arguing the state's top laywer should be more visible on issues like federal overreach. He dropped out of the race in November.

    From: Anoka

    Entered the race on: April 17, 2017

    Left the race on:

    Campaign website: https://harryniska.com/

    Close

DFL

  • Debra Hilstrom
  • Debra Hilstrom is a prosecutor in the Anoka County Attorney’s office and nine-term DFL state representative from Brooklyn Center. In the race for attorney general, she's touting her experience as a prosecutor and working on political issues in St. Paul. Hilstrom’s run is contingent on DFL incumbent Lori Swanson vacating the position to run for another office.

    From: Brooklyn Center

    Entered the race on: July 3, 2017

    Campaign website: https://www.debrahilstrommn.com/

    Close
  • Ryan Winkler
  • Former DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler, a DFLer who represented Golden Valley for five terms in the House, stepped down in 2015 after his wife accepted a job in Belgium. Winkler, a lawyer, championed issues like a higher minimum wage during his time in the Legislature. Winkler's run is contingent on DFL incumbent Lori Swanson vacating the position to run for another office.

    From: Golden Valley

    Entered the race on: November 16, 2016

    Campaign website: https://www.ryanwinkler.com/

    Close
  • Matt Pelikan
  • A DFL activist and University of Minnesota Law school graduate, Matt Pelikan clerked for several Minnesota Supreme Court Justices before going into private practice and pro bono work. If elected, he'd be the first openly gay man to serve as attorney general.

    From: Minneapolis

    Entered the race on: September 18, 2017

    Campaign website: http://mattpelikan.com/

    Close
  • Mike Rothman
  • Mike Rothman is a longtime Democrat who most recently served as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. He left that job in November to run for attorney general.

    From: St. Paul

    Entered the race on: November 28, 2017

    Campaign website: http://mikerothmanformn.com/

    Close
  • John Lesch
  • St. Paul DFL Rep. John Lesch, who spent 14 years as a criminal prosecutor in the city, announced the end of his campaign for attorney general on September 15, 2017.

    From: St. Paul

    Entered the race on: April 4, 2017

    Left the race on: September 15, 2017

    Campaign website: http://www.johnlesch.com/

    Close

State Auditor

Current DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto is running for governor in 2018, leaving a vacancy in the statewide office she’s held since 2006. The auditor, whose office audits local government financial records, is probably Minnesota's least-known statewide post. So far, the opening has attracted one DFL lobbyist to enter the race, but no Republicans have publicly announced their candidacy yet.

DFL

  • Jon Tollefson
  • A lobbyist with the Minnesota Nurses Association, Jon Tollefson briefly threw his name in the ring to run for Congress against Erik Paulsen in the 3rd Congressional District. But he announced in June that he’s seeking the open auditor seat instead. He said he wants to protect the independent oversight role of the office.

    From: Minneapolis

    Entered the race on: June 22, 2017

    Campaign website: https://www.facebook.com/JonTollefsonMN/

    Close
  • Jack Dickinson
  • Jack Dickinson is a small business owner getting his master's degree in public affairs at the University of Minnesota.

    From: Minneapolis

    Entered the race on: October 2, 2017

    Campaign website: https://jackdickinson.org/

    Close
  • Julie Blaha
  • Julie Blaha is a former middle school math teacher with a long history of working in DFL politics. She previously served as president of Anoka-Hennepin's Education Minnesota chapter and is currently secretary and treasurer of the AFL-CIO.

    From: Minneapolis

    Entered the race on: December 9, 2017

    Campaign website: http://blahaforauditor.org/

    Close

Senate

It’s the job no one wants: running against Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The widely popular Democratic incumbent is poised to secure a third term in the U.S. Senate without much incident: with top Republicans drawn to the open-seat governor’s race, only one GOPer, state Rep. Jim Newberger, has officially stepped forward to challenge her.

DFL

  • Amy Klobuchar
  • First elected in 2006, the former Hennepin County prosecutor is seeking her third term in the U.S. Senate. Klobuchar serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a member of Democratic Senate leadership, and is mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2020.

    From: Plymouth

    Entered the race on: December 25, 2016

    Campaign website: https://www.amyklobuchar.com/

    Incumbent

    Close

Republican

  • Jim Newberger
  • Jim Newberger, a third-term Minnesota House member, is the first candidate to seek the GOP endorsement to challenge Amy Klobuchar. A staunch conservative, Newberger is pledging to restore “balance” to the Minnesota congressional delegation.

    From: Becker

    Entered the race on: August 7, 2017

    Close

Green

  • Paula Overby
  • Paula Overby, a data analyst, is making her third run for Congress. In 2014 and 2016, she sought the 2nd Congressional District seat as an Independence Party candidate, and earned 8% of the vote in 2016.

    From: Eagan

    Entered the race on: November 15, 2017

    Campaign website: http://www.paulaoverby.com/

    Close

Congressional District 1

Rep. Tim Walz’s candidacy for governor gives southern Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District its first open-seat contest since 2006. Republicans, heartened by Trump’s 15-point margin here in 2016, see this as a major pick-up opportunity. The GOP establishment is coalescing around third-time candidate Jim Hagedorn. There is no clear DFL front-runner, with a former state senator, an Obama administration official, and six other DFLers currently in the race.

Republican

  • Jim Hagedorn
  • Jim Hagedorn, a former US Treasury official and conservative blogger, is taking his third run for the seat. He lost to Rep. Tim Walz in 2014 and 2016.

    From: Blue Earth

    Entered the race on: December 7, 2016

    Campaign website: http://www.jimhagedorn.org/

    Close
  • Carla Nelson
  • Carla Nelson, a former teacher and member of the Minnesota House, has represented a Rochester-area state Senate district since 2010.

    From: Rochester

    Entered the race on: October 2, 2017

    Campaign website: https://www.carlanelson.com/

    Close

DFL

  • Dan Feehan
  • Dan Feehan, an Iraq War veteran and a former official at the Department of Defense under Barack Obama, is originally from Red Wing. Feehan moved back to the Mankato area this year.

    From: North Mankato

    Entered the race on: July 10, 2017

    Campaign website: https://danfeehan.com/

    Close
  • Vicki Jensen
  • Vicki Jensen served one term representing Senate District 24 before being defeated in 2016.

    From: Owatonna

    Entered the race on: June 6, 2017

    Campaign website: http://www.vickijensenforcongress.com/

    Close
  • Joe Sullivan
  • Joe Sullivan is a lawyer who has worked on rural development issues in Minnesota, particularly renewable energy.

    From: Mankato

    Entered the race on: August 1, 2017

    Campaign website: http://www.joesullivanforcongress.com/

    Close
  • Johnny Akzam
  • Johnny Akzam, a web developer, is running as a Bernie Sanders-aligned progressive for the DFL endorsement in CD1.

    From: Rochester

    Entered the race on: April 1, 2017

    Campaign website: https://johnnyakzam.com/

    Close
  • Colin Minehart
  • Colin Minehart is a former restaurant owner and current salesman of pull-tab lottery games. He ran for the Minnesota House several times in the 1980s.

    From: Albert Lea

    Entered the race on: June 20, 2017

    Close
  • Rich Wright
  • Rich Wright is an attorney who served in the Army Reserves as a judicial officer. He lost Minnesota Senate race to Republican Carla Nelson in 2016, and lost a 2014 Minnesota House race.

    From: Rochester

    Entered the race on: August 8, 2017

    Campaign website: http://www.richwright.org/

    Close
  • Bob Ries
  • Bob Ries, a U.S. Navy veteran and political newcomer, is a former professor of business at Winona State University and Southwest Minnesota State University.

    From: Winona

    Entered the race on: September 12, 2017

    Close
  • John Austinson
  • John Austinson, a school teacher and football coach in Byron, ran unsuccessfully for the Minnesota House in 2016. After a brief campaign for the CD1 DFL endorsement for 2018, he dropped out of the race in August 2017 to focus on local politics.

    From: Eyota

    Entered the race on: June 28, 2017

    Left the race on: August 13, 2017

    Campaign website: http://johnwayneaustinson.org/

    Close
  • Regina Mustafa
  • Regina Mustafa, a graduate student, has been a community activist since arriving in the Rochester area 10 years ago. After announcing her run in the summer, Mustafa suspended her campaign in October.

    From: Rochester

    Entered the race on: July 31, 2017

    Left the race on: October 13, 2017

    Campaign website: http://regina4congress.com/

    Close

Congressional District 2

Freshman GOP Rep. Jason Lewis surprised in 2016 by pulling off a narrow victory in this south metro district. He is perhaps a top-five target for national Democrats in 2018, who believe a strong challenger could best Lewis in this swing district that Republicans have held since 2001. In the running on the DFL side are 2016 candidate Angie Craig and schoolteacher Jeff Erdmann.

Republican

  • Jason Lewis
  • Jason Lewis, a former talk radio host, is a freshman congressman making his first bid for re-election to the 2nd District seat. He won in 2016 by just 1.8 percentage points in this Trump-leaning district.

    From: Woodbury

    Entered the race on: November 30, 2016

    Campaign website: https://www.jasonformn.com/

    Incumbent

    Close

DFL

Congressional District 3

Democrats have long wanted to knock off GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen, who has held this west metro House seat since 2009. Despite millions of Trump-related attack ads directed at him in 2016, Paulsen skated to a double-digit win. Democrats, who think the path back to a House majority runs through suburban districts like this one, hope Dean Phillips, a wealthy entrepreneur, can finally unseat Paulsen.

Republican

  • Erik Paulsen
  • Erik Paulsen, first elected to Congress in 2008, is seeking his sixth term representing the 3rd District. The former Minnesota state legislator is a member of the House Ways and Means committee and a top target for national Democrats.

    From: Eden Prairie

    Entered the race on: December 15, 2016

    Campaign website: https://paulsenforcongress.com/

    Incumbent

    Close

DFL

Congressional District 4

DFL Rep. Betty McCollum has held the deep-blue 4th Congressional District, which comprises St. Paul and its northern and eastern suburbs, since 2001. She faces no significant challenge to securing a 10th term, from either the GOP or DFL sides.

DFL

  • Betty McCollum
  • Betty McCollum has represented the safely blue 4th Congressional District since 2001. The progressive Democrat serves on the House Appropriations Committee, where she focuses on federal environment spending.

    From: St. Paul

    Entered the race on: November 24, 2016

    Campaign website: http://www.mccollumforcongress.com/

    Incumbent

    Close

Congressional District 5

For a moment, it seemed as if there might be an open seat in Minneapolis for 2018, as Rep. Keith Ellison vowed to leave Congress if he became chair of the DNC. A few DFL state legislators waited in the wings, but Ellison lost the DNC race in February, meaning the 5th District is essentially his, as long as he wants it.

DFL

  • Keith Ellison
  • Keith Ellison has represented the 5th Congressional District since 2007. A leading progressive in the House, Ellison is serving as the No. 2 official at the Democratic National Committeee after losing a bid to chair the party in February.

    From: Minneapolis

    Entered the race on: November 17, 2016

    Campaign website: http://www.keithellison.org/

    Incumbent

    Close

Congressional District 6

Incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Emmer is in strong standing in his 6th District seat in central Minnesota, and is poised to win a third term to the House — should he want it. The one-time gubernatorial candidate has filed to run for re-election to the U.S. House, but he has not explicitly ruled out another run for governor in 2018.

Republican

  • Tom Emmer
  • Tom Emmer, a second-term Republican congressman, has filed for re-election in CD6, but he has not explicitly ruled out a run for governor. Emmer is a top official at the House GOP's campaign arm, the NRCC.

    From: Delano

    Entered the race on: December 7, 2016

    Campaign website: http://emmerforcongress.com/index.cfm

    Incumbent

    Close

DFL

Congressional District 7

This rural Minnesota district went for Mitt Romney by 7 points in 2012 and then went for Trump by 30 points in 2016. Through all political winds, incumbent DFL Rep. Collin Peterson has stuck it out in Congress — since 1991. But the GOP believes the 2018 could well be his last: his challenger last year and a state House member are in the running to defeat him.

DFL

  • Collin Peterson
  • Collin Peterson, who has served in the House since 1991, will run for re-election for the 7th District seat in 2018. The conservative Democrat, a perennial GOP target, has said he wants to stick around and work on the next Farm Bill.

    From: Detroit Lakes

    Entered the race on: April 27, 2017

    Campaign website: http://www.petersonforcongress.com/

    Incumbent

    Close

Republican

  • Tim Miller
  • Tim Miller is a second-term Republican member of the Minnesota House. The former businessman and veteran is making his first run for Congress.

    From: Prinsburg

    Entered the race on: April 7, 2017

    Campaign website: https://www.timformn.com/

    Close
  • David Hughes
  • David Hughes, an Air Force veteran, is making a second run for the CD7 seat. Despite raising little money in 2016, Hughes lost to Collin Peterson by just four points in this heavily pro-Trump district.

    From: Karlstad

    Entered the race on: November 10, 2016

    Campaign website: http://www.hughesforcongress.us/

    Close
  • Matt Prosch
  • Matt Prosch, the owner of a trucking company and a former Army National Guardsman, is a first-time candidate for office.

    From: Lake Benton

    Entered the race on: June 12, 2017

    Campaign website: http://www.mattproschforcongress.com/

    Close

Congressional District 8

The last two election cycles, the Minnesota 8th has ranked in the top 10 most expensive House races in the country, reflecting incumbent DFL Rep. Rick Nolan’s hard-fought re-election victories in this northeastern Minnesota district. Though Nolan passed on a gubernatorial run this cycle, he remains a top Republican target. So far, a GOP county commissioner is vying for the chance to defeat him.

DFL

  • Rick Nolan
  • Rick Nolan, the DFL incumbent in CD8, announced he will seek a fourth term in Congress after publicly flirting with a run for governor. The Bernie Sanders supporter has held this seat even as the longtime DFL stronghold has grown redder.

    From: Crosby

    Entered the race on: June 2, 2017

    Campaign website: http://www.nolanforcongress.org/

    Incumbent

    Close
  • Leah Phifer
  • Leah Phifer, a college professor and former FBI counter-terrorism officer, is challenging Rep. Rick Nolan for the DFL endorsement, arguing the party needs a fresh face and new voice.

    From: Two Harbors

    Entered the race on: October 8, 2017

    Campaign website: https://phiferforcongress.com/

    Close

Republican

  • Pete Stauber
  • Pete Stauber, a conservative St. Louis County commissioner, will seek the GOP endorsement in the CD8 race. The Hermantown native is a former pro hockey player and policeman.

    From: Hermantown

    Entered the race on: July 10, 2017

    Campaign website: https://petestauberforcongress.com/

    Close

Independent

  • Ray “Skip” Sandman
  • Ray “Skip” Sandman, a Vietnam veteran, announced his second run for the CD8 seat in May. He ran as a Green Party candiate in 2014, earning 4 percent of the vote.

    From: Duluth

    Entered the race on: May 14, 2017

    Close

About the Author:

Comments (3)

Where are the Republican women?

Republican slate so far exclusively male.

AG

I thought John Lesch dropped out of the AG race.

Secretary of State

What about Secretary of State?