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August 10, 2022
Minnesota Primary Election

Yesterday marked the completion of one of Minnesota’s most contentious primaries election seasons in recent memory. With over forty primaries in the state legislature, five primaries for the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican primaries for Attorney General and Secretary of State as well as a special election in Minnesota’s first congressional district, there were plenty of races to watch last night.  Ultimately, this primary seemed to favor incumbent legislators, including those who had previously lost their party’s endorsement at local conventions this past spring.  Many legislators, particularly those seeking to represent districts generally deemed “safe” for one party or another, will be celebrating their presumptive election this morning while others will be taking a moment to catch their breath before refocusing on the November general election.   

U.S. House of Representatives 

Congressional District 1: Special Election and GOP Primary 
Five of Minnesota’s eight congressional districts featured primary challenges last night, but the 1st and 5th congressional districts proved to be the races to watch.  Residents of Minnesota’s 1st congressional district faced quite a unique ballot on Tuesday where they not only had to elect a short-term replacement for the late Congressman Jim Hagedorn (MN-1), but also had to endorse candidates for the general election in November.  The special election featured former state Rep. Brad Finstad, a Republican, and former Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger, a Democrat, along with two pro-marijuana party candidates.  In a district that President Trump won by 10%, Finstad defeated Ettinger with only 51.1% to 46.9%.  Finstad may be sworn in as soon as Friday.  

Simultaneously, Finstad was on the Republican primary ballot opposite state Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal), who he narrowly defeated in a crowded special election primary back in May. This time, however, Finstad won comfortably, earning 76% of the Republican vote setting up a November rematch against Jeff Ettinger. 

Congressional District 5: DFL Primary
The Democratic primary in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district ended up as one of the most competitive races in the state.  With four challengers taking on Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (MN-5), it was former Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels who came within 3% of unseating the high-profile congresswomen.  Samuels out raised Rep. Omar by nearly $200,000 according to campaign finance reports released earlier this year, but Omar emerged with 50.35% of the vote.  She will face Republican nominee Cicely Davis in November. 

Attorney General

Having received the Republican Party’s endorsement in May, attorney Jim Schultz squared off against the Republican Party’s 2018 nominee for attorney general, former state Rep. Doug Wardlow.  A graduate of Harvard Law School, Schultz campaigned as the Republican best suited to defeat DFL incumbent, Keith Ellison, in what was a rather contentious campaign.  In the end, Schultz defeated Wardlow 52.5% to 34.8%. 

State Legislature

Minnesota Senate
Going into yesterday’s primary, several incumbent state senators faced significant primary challenges, including multiple Republicans who had previously lost their party’s endorsement earlier this year.  Most notably, Sen. Paul Utke (R- Park Raids) emerged victorious amongst a crowded field of competitors in the Senate District 5 seat. Winning the primary with 58% of the vote, Sen. Utke had a tumultuous road to victory having lost the endorsement to Bret Bussman, a political newcomer supported by a conservative grass roots organization called Action4Liberty. Sen. Utke will take on A. John Peters in November. 

Similarly, Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) defeated his Republican-endorsed challenger, Natalie Barnes with 53.7% of the vote.  The three-term legislator will now face Democrat Alicia Donahue in November.  Other incumbent senators who survived challenges include Sen. Gene Dornink (R-Brownsdale), Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne), Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), Sen. Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks), Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul), and Sen. Omar Fateh (DFL-Minneapolis).  

Minnesota House of Representatives
Three incumbent representatives lost their primaries last night, however, only one lost to a political newcomer. Rep. Liz Reyer (DFL- Eagan) defeated fellow incumbent and longtime legislator Rep. Sandra Masin (DFL- Eagan) in House District 52A. Coming into the race as the endorsed candidate, Rep. Reyer took home the victory with 60.86% of the vote. She will take on Republican Fern Smith in November. Also taking the victory over a fellow legislator was Rep. Steve Elkins (DFL- Bloomington) who defeated Rep. Andrew Carlson (DFL- Bloomington) with 61% of the vote in House District 50B. This race did not feature an endorsed candidate and both contenders are former Bloomington City Councilmembers.  Rep. Elkins will face off against Rep. Beth Beebe in November.  Finally, embattled Rep. John Thompson (DFL-St. Paul) lost his endorsement to political newcomer and DFL-endorsed community activist, Liz Lee. Lee won with a decisive 88.9% of the vote and will take on Beverly Peterson in the November general election.

History Likely to be Made
Voters in St. Paul are likely to make history this November as Leigh Finke appears set to become the first trans-women to serve in the Minnesota state legislature.  After the DFL endorsing convention gridlocked without an endorsement, Finke went on to defeat DFL rival Dave Thomas 63.2% to 36.8%.  While Finke will now face Republican nominee Trace Johnson in November, the strong DFL index in House District 66A makes it very likely she will be serving in the House of Representatives come January. 

Important Dates to Remember

  • November 8, 2022: General Election 
The Larkin Hoffman Government Relations Team
    Margaret Vesel

Matthew Bergeron

Peter Coyle
Bill Griffith
  Grady Harn  Megan Knight
Peder Larson

  Robert Long
Gerald Seck 
Brandan Strickland

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