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August 12, 2020

Minnesotans Vote in Primary Election and the Legislature Returns for Third Special Session

Yesterday was Primary Election Day in Minnesota and
the story of the night was the defeat of four incumbent Democratic legislators by progressive challengers, three of whom had previously received their party’s endorsement at local conventions this spring.

  • DFL-endorsed plaintiff’s attorney Jen McEwan defeated Sen. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth), a retired fire chief, 74% to 27%;
  • Business analyst Oman Fateh defeated former Deputy Majority Leader Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis) 54.5% to 45.5% having also previously won the DFL-endorsement;
  • DFL-endorsed litigator Ester Agbaje defeated Rep. Ray Dehn (DFL-Minneapolis), the 2017 Minneapolis mayoral runner-up, 47.4% to 41.9%; and
  • Attorney Athena Hollins defeated nine-term incumbent Rep. John Lesch 60% to 40% even after Lesch had previously beat Hollins for the DFL-endorsement.

With all 201 state legislators and eight members of Congress on the ballot, there were a number of competitive primary races on both sides of the aisle. As expected, Democrat U.S. Senator Tina Smith and former Republican Rep. Jason Lewis won their respective primaries for U.S. Senate with each one facing only marginal opposition. Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-5) fended off a tough challenge from political newcomer Antone Melton-Meaux wining her primary relatively comfortably with 57.4% to 39.2%. Former Minnesota Senate President and Lt. Governor Michelle Fischbach also emerged victorious in a five-way race for the Republican nomination in Minnesota’s seventh congressional district, earning nearly 60% of the vote.

Yesterday also brought primary challenges for three of the four major caucus leaders as Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa), Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury) and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) all drew primary opponents. However, as expected, all three emerged with comfortable victories. 

Instead of physically heading to the polls, a record number of Minnesotans elected to utilize the state’s no-excuse absentee voting system and vote by mail. At least 640,000 mail ballots were requested of state and local elections officials for the primary. Those numbers compare to 222,589 requested in 2018, the most-recent pre-pandemic primary, and 107,159 requested in 2016, which has comparable races to Tuesday’s election.

While most ballots received prior to Election Day were counted in advance and included in the election night totals, under a recent court ruling ballots postmarked by Election Day will be accepted until Thursday. When polls closed, up to a quarter of all absentee ballots requested had not yet arrived and could still be returned, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Another Special Session Starts Today

For the third time this summer, lawmakers will convene at the Capitol for a special session starting at noon today. Governor Tim Walz called the third 2020 special session to renew his COVID-19 peacetime emergency powers. The Governor is required to call the legislature into a special session to give the legislature an opportunity to override his executive orders by a majority vote in each legislative body. The GOP-led Senate has already voted twice to overturn the Governor’s authority; whereas the DFL House has not had enough votes to take the issue up for debate on the House floor.

One of the many issues left on the legislature’s to-do list is a public works construction package but a bond
ing bill is unlikely to happen in August. Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans warned lawmakers in July that the state’s annual August bond sale could be derailed by adding additional debt obligations to the state’s financial report during the financial quiet period required for bond sale closure. Thus, most legislative leaders believe the third 2020 special session will be a short, one-day meeting and expect to return to the Capitol again in 30 days with an agreement on outstanding issues like the bonding bill.

Biden Picks Kamala Harris as Running Mate

Yesterday, former Vice President Joe Biden announced his selection of California Senator and former presidential rival Kamala Harris as his running mate. Harris, who also served as California’s Attorney General from 2010-2016 becomes the first Black woman to be the vice-presidential nominee of a major political party in the United States. With Biden’s announcement, both tickets appear to be set going into the nominating conventions later this month:

2020 Democratic National Convention
When: August 17-20
Location: Milwaukee, WI* (*largely a virtual convention, it will be officially centered at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee where production will be headquartered)

2020 Republican National Convention
When: August 24-27
Location: Charlotte, NC (day 1);
Various locations remotely (days 2-4)

    Please reach out to any of the Larkin Hoffman Government Relations team members with any questions. 


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