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November 7, 2016

What to Watch for Tomorrow

While the majority of the nation is engrossed by the presidential campaign, Minnesota has a unique election cycle coming to a conclusion tomorrow. There are no candidates for statewide office on the ballot in Minnesota as neither U.S. ‎senator nor any of the state’s constitutional officers (governor, attorney general, etc.) are up for ‎election. Instead, Minnesota’s attention has focused on two U.S. House of ‎Representatives campaigns and the battle for the Minnesota legislature, where all 201 state legislative seats are up for election.

Democrats Fight to Maintain Control of Minnesota Senate
With the exception of 2011-12, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) has maintained majority ‎control in the Minnesota Senate since the state began using party designation for legislative races 40 ‎years ago. The DFL currently holds a 39 to 28 majority in the Minnesota Senate. With 14 open ‎seats as well as a large number of first-term DFLers seeking their first re-election, it is far from certain that Iron Range Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook‎) and the DFL will maintain their majority come January.

The Senate Republicans have focused much of their effort to retake the majority on a handful of rural ‎and outer-ring suburban districts. Many are represented by first- or second-term State Senators while others are considered competitive as a result of the retirement of incumbent DFL Senators. In particular, Sen. Lyle Koenen (DFL-Clara City), Sen. Matt Schmit (DFL-Red Wing), Sen. Vicki ‎Jensen (DFL-Owatonna), Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin), and Sen. ‎Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley) are all races to watch tomorrow evening. Similarly, the seats vacated by Sen. LeRoy Stumpf (northwest corner of Minnesota), Sen. ‎Alice Johnson (northern suburbs), and Sen. Terri Bonoff (western suburbs) are Republican targets as well.‎ Meanwhile, in addition to supporting current members of their caucus, the Senate DFL has worked to challenge in districts currently represented by ‎Republicans. The open seat in the St. Cloud area vacated by the ‎retirement of Sen. John Pederson has been competitive while Senate Minority Leader David Hann ‎‎(R-Eden Prairie) has also faced a strong re-election challenge.

Tight Race for Control of Minnesota House
While the Minnesota Senate has been historically controlled by the DFL, the legislative majority in ‎the House of Representatives has been much more fluid. Majority control of the chamber has changed ‎following four of the last five elections. Republicans currently have a 73-61 majority in the ‎Minnesota House with 18 open seats ‎this November. While the DFL would normally need to capture seven additional seats to retake the majority, a September Minnesota Supreme Court decision that Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Taylors Falls) failed to meet the residency requirements for reelection has complicated things. The Supreme Court’s ruling voided the November election for that district and a February special election will be held to fill the seat. This effectively lowers the bar for the DFL as they now need to only capture six additional seats to take a 67-66 majority pending the special election.

Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) and the House DFL have split their efforts to regain control of the House of Representative between challenging the first-term rural legislators whose 2014 victories ‎helped the GOP regain control of the House chamber the last two years and attempting to expand their base in suburban communities. Specifically, Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R-Nisswa), Rep. Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley), Rep. Tim ‎Miller ‎‎(R-Prinsburg), Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar), and Rep. Brian Daniels (R-Faribault) all face ‎tough challenges in their first reelection campaign while long time legislator and chair of the ‎powerful House Ways & Means Committee, Rep. Jim Knobloch, has also had a very tough ‎campaign opposite former Rep. Zachary Dorholt, who Knoblach narrowly ‎defeated in 2014. ‎Meanwhile, closer to the Twin Cities, open seats in Apple Valley, Minnetonka, and Coon Rapids ‎have been priorities of both parties while House DFLers have also targeted suburban Republicans ‎Rep. Roz Peterson (R-Burnsville), Rep. Chad Anderson (R-Bloomington), and Rep. Sarah ‎Anderson ‎‎(R-Plymouth). ‎National political debates over issues such as immigration and free trade appear to be helping some DFL challengers in suburban communities but may be hurting rural Democrats.

Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) and House Republicans have worked both in northern Minnesota and the Rochester area to win seats currently held by the DFL as part of their strategy to maintain their majority. National debates over Obamacare and recent news about large increases in healthcare costs for many Minnesotans may have given Republicans a boost in many areas of the state.

Competitive Congressional Races
One of the most competitive congressional races in the nation is in the Eighth Congressional District in northeastern Minnesota. The contest is a rematch of the 2014 race between incumbent Congressman Rick Nolan (D-MN) and third-generation retailer Stuart Mills, ‎III. Nolan won two years ago by fewer than 4,000 votes. Nolan is running for a third term after beating Republican incumbent Chip Cravaack in 2012. The race remains unpredictable, in part, because of the unknown influence of the presidential race. Donald Trump is significantly more popular in the Eighth District than in most parts of the state and Sen. Bernie Sanders beat Secretary Clinton in the Democratic precinct caucuses last winter. However, Rep. Nolan has bucked many in his party by being a strong advocate for mining and raised concerns with many international trade policies. A KSTP/Survey USA poll conducted in mid-October showed Mills leading Nolan 45 percent to 41 percent.

The other hotly contested race is in the Second Congressional District which stretches south from the metropolitan area’s suburbs. Currently represented by retiring Congressman John Kline (R-MN), the Second District has seen a very hotly contested race between Democratic healthcare executive Angie Craig and Republican radio personality Jason Lewis. This race has mirrored the presidential campaign in many ways as Democrats have worked hard to use Lewis’ past as a bombastic former talk show host to tie him to Mr. Trump and paint him as out-of-touch with the district. Meanwhile, Republicans have been critical of Craig’s endorsement by President Obama and past support of the Affordable Care Act‎. The same KSTP/Survey USA showed Craig leading Lewis 46 percent to 41 percent. Both races are expected to be very close.


Our Team

Peter Coyle



Peder Larson



Margaret Vesel



Robert Long



Matthew Bergeron



Gerald Seck



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Larkin Hoffman provides counsel to a wide variety of ‎organizations, from ‎small businesses and nonprofits to  Fortune 500 companies, in ‎many areas of practice including ‎corporate and governance matters, litigation, real ‎estate, government relations, labor and employment, intellectual property, ‎information technology, ‎franchising and taxation. The firm also serves the needs of individuals in many ‎areas ‎including trusts and estates, personal injury and family law.


This newsletter is provided as a service to our clients and firm associates. While the information provided in this newsletter is believed to be accurate, it is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice.

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