As we wait for the final results of the last few Minnesota legislative races to come in, one thing continues to become clear: the DFL continues to shore up its political control in the Twin Cities, and the Republicans continue to shore up their control in Greater Minnesota.
At the end of the night, it appears that the Republicans were able to flip five DFL held seats in the House, bringing the DFL majority down to 70-64. Three of the five flipped seats are from Greater Minnesota. Some of these races may change as mail-in ballots continue to come in, and some of the races will likely have recounts. Flipped seats include the likely loss of Rep. Jeanne Poppe, an eight-term legislator from Austin, and Rep. John Persell, a five-term (non-consecutive) legislator from Bemidji. The Republicans did flip two Twin Cities seats, defeating Rep. Brad Tabke (DFL-Shakopee) and Rep. Ann Claflin (DFL-South St. Paul).
In the Senate, the DFL was able to pick up the open seat in Plymouth previously held by retiring Sen. Paul Anderson (R-Plymouth) and defeat Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville), adding two new DFL seats in the Twin Cities. Republicans appear to have defeated Sen. Dan Sparks (DFL-Austin), a five-term legislator. Republicans also picked up the seat held by Sen. Matt Little (DFL-Lakeville), a district that straddles the line between the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. The final race that is still undecided is Sen. Jerry Relph (R-St. Cloud). It appears this race will likely go to the DFL challenger, Aric Putnam. Depending on the outcome of that race, it appears that the Senate will remain under Republican control, with either a 35-32 or 34-33 majority.
What this election shows, as we have seen over the last few elections, is that Minnesota is a divided state. Not only do we continue to have a divided legislature where the House and Senate are controlled by different parties, but we continue to see the bifurcation of the state geographically with the DFL controlling the Twin Cities and a strong presence in the large regional centers, and the Republicans controlling the majority of Greater Minnesota, with limited representation in the Twin Cities. This divide will continue to present significant challenges as we look for public policies and investments to address both the needs and opportunities in Greater Minnesota.
As Roger Moe, former DFL Senate Majority Leader who represented northwest Minnesota, said in a recent Star Tribune article, the results of this election suggest the state has “become even more polarized between rural and urban areas…Based upon the outcome, it’s unfortunate but we seem to be stretching out both ways the urban and rural divide.”