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A way-too-early look at which Minnesota legislative seats will be targeted in 2022

The 2020 election’s anomalies are the first place the parties will look when planning for the next election.

MN House
In 2018, DFLers retook the Minnesota House by winning all 12 of the seats where GOP members had won in 2016 despite Hillary Clinton being the top vote-getter for president.
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan

In 2014, it was the Romney 12.

In 2018, it was the Hillary 12 — and the Donald 7.

In 2020, it was the Gwen 10.

Each described the top targets in Minnesota legislative races, districts held by incumbents who won seats despite seeing the other party’s ticket-topper also prevailing there. After taking control of the Minnesota House in 2014, Republicans expanded their majority in 2016 by knocking off eleven DFL incumbents who won in districts that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had won in 2012.

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Just two years ago, DFLers retook the Minnesota House by winning all 12 of the seats where GOP members had won in 2016 despite Hillary Clinton being the top vote-getter for president.

But the 2020 election showed the formula isn’t foolproof. Of the 10 districts that DFL Gov. Tim Walz won in 2018 but had holdover GOP incumbents — a group First Lady Gwen Walz had called out in a speech by saying, “we’re coming” — seven remained in Republican control this month.

Nor did the election provide much of a start for planning for 2022, when all 201 House and Senate seats will be on the ballot again. And given that redistricting will have happened in the meantime, it will be harder still to find alignment between 2020 results and 2022 targets. Still, looking at prior election anomalies is usually the first place the parties will look when planning for the next election.

The Trump Two?

Republicans in the state Senate hold a 34-31-2 majority, and any pickup up seat is valuable. But there are just two that voted for Donald Trump while electing a DFL senator on Nov. 3: the 4th District held by Sen. Kent Eken of Twin Valley (which went for Trump by 2.6 percent); and the 6th District, held by Sen. David Tomassoni (which went for Trump by 5). Tomassoni has has since bolted the DFL caucus and said he will caucus with Sen. Tom Bakk, both as independents.

The DFL has a somewhat bigger list. Call it the Biden Five-and-a-Half. Six incumbent GOPers were re-elected even though their district gave more votes to Joe Biden than Donald Trump, but one just barely. The are 25th District Sen. David Senjem (Biden by 5.5 percent), 26th District Sen. Carla Nelson (Biden by 9.4 percent), 33rd District Sen. David Osmek (Biden by 1 percent), 34th District Sen. Warren Limmer (Biden by 7.7 percent), 38th District Sen. Roger Chamberlain (Biden by 2.7) and 39th District Sen. Karin Housley (Biden by just 0.3 percent — or 195 votes).

Less ticket splitting

It is even slimmer pickings in the House, where DFLers saw their majority slip from 75-59 to 70-64. There are four Trump districts with DFL House winners, all in Northern Minnesota. There are four Biden districts with GOP House winners, all in the Twin Cities suburbs.

The Biden Four are Rep. Kristin Robbins in House District 34A (which went for Biden by 0.1 percent, or 35 votes); Rep. Nolan West in 37B (Biden by 4.5 percent); Rep. Greg Boe in 47A (Biden by 7.5 percent); and Rep-elect Erik Mortensen in 55A (Biden by 6.8 percent), where a marijuana legalization candidate with a GOP history was also a factor in denying DFL incumbent Rep. Brad Tabke a second term.

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The Trump four are Rep. Rob Ecklund in 3A (Trump by 3.6); Rep. Paul Marquart in 4B (Trump by 18.9 percent); Rep. Julie Sandstede in 6A (Trump by 5.4 percent); and Rep. Dave Lislegard in 6B (Trump by 4.6 percent). Marquart, however, shows the power of being a known entity among voters. He is the sole survivor of the GOP’s 2014 and 2016 assault on the Romney 12.

Talk of ticket-splitting by voters aside, there was far less this election than in past elections, at least for state legislative seats. Other than those listed above, all the other districts that supported Biden for president elected DFLers to the House and Senate. And all the districts that supported Trump for president, save the four above, also elected Republicans to the House and Senate. In many cases, it wasn’t close.

Here are the most-Republicans and most Democratic House and Senate districts in the state, as measured by the percentage of the vote captured by Trump and Biden respectively.

The most Trump-voting House districts

District2020 winner% for Trump
9BRon Kresha75.0
9AJohn Poston73.0
15BShawn Mekeland73.0
12BPaul Anderson71.3
31AKurt Daudt70.8
22AJoe Schomacker69.7
15ASondra Erickson69.5
18BGlenn Gruenhagen69.1
1AJohn Burkel67.7
18ADean Urdahl67.5

The most Trump-voting Senate districts

District2020 winner% for Trump
9Paul Gazelka74.0
15Andrew Matthews71.3
18Scott Newman68.3
22Bill Weber68.1
12Torrey Westrom67.9
31Michelle Benson67.6
1Mark Johnson65.9
8Bill Ingebrigtsen64.8
16Gary Dahms64.8
32Mark Koran64.6

The most Biden-voting House districts

District2020 winner% for Biden
62BAisha Gomez91.1
62AHodan Hassan89.4
60BMohamud Noor87.6
63AJim Davnie88.1
61BJamie Long87.2
61AFrank Hornstein87.1
64AKaohly Her86.1
60ASydney Jordan84.4
59BEsther Agbaje83.5
59AFue Lee82.0

The most Biden-voting Senate districts

District2020 winner% for Biden
62Omar Fateh90.3
61Scott Dibble87.1
60Kari Dziedzic85.8
63Patricia Torres Ray84.0
59Bobby Joe Champion82.8
64Erin Murphy83.5
65Sandra Pappas80.7
66John Marty76.1
46Ron Latz74.2
67Fuong Hawj72.1