In this state and around the country, Tuesday’s election produced enough of the forecast “blue wave” of Democratic victories to change control of the U.S. House; keep Minnesota’s governorship, attorney general’s office and two U.S. Senate seats in DFL hands; and return control of the state House to the DFL after four years in GOP hands.
But the wave fell short of the sweeping rebuke of President Donald Trump and his Republican allies that Democrats sought. The Republican grip on the U.S. Senate tightened as Democrats lost re-election bids in North Dakota, Missouri and Indiana.
Republicans won one and perhaps both of two Greater Minnesota congressional districts that were previously represented by Democrats, even as DFLers ousted Republican incumbents in the suburban Second and Third districts. And Republican Jeff Howe’s special-election victory in District 13 will keep the Minnesota Senate in GOP hands in 2019, albeit with a spare 34-33 majority.
Those mixed results reflect an electorate both in Minnesota and the nation that remains sorely divided by region, gender and race. We welcome the prospect that a Democratic majority in the U.S. House will provide a check on the excesses of the Trump presidency. That’s a responsibility that congressional Republicans showed too little willingness to shoulder in the past two years.
But we regret that this midterm election and the scorched-earth campaign that preceded it appear to have deepened the nation’s partisan entrenchment. Both parties contributed to that result by engaging in harshly negative advertising designed to demonize the opposition rather than generate a mandate for the victors. Such campaigns seldom settle the questions that divide Americans. They’ve made governing increasingly difficult.
Minnesotans know well the difficulty associated with divided government. That’s what they’ve experienced in St. Paul in 26 of the past 28 years. But in returning Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith to the U.S. Senate and choosing DFLer Tim Walz to succeed the retiring DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, voters opted for candidates with records as consensus-builders.
Klobuchar may have been elected to a third term by a larger share of the vote than any other contested Democratic Senate incumbent this year. Her hefty majority attests to an appeal that reaches well beyond her DFL base. She ranks consistently high among U.S. senators for bipartisan legislating and for getting bills signed into law. Smith has followed Klobuchar’s lead in bipartisanship since her appointment to the Senate in January to replace Al Franken, who stepped down amid allegations of sexual impropriety.
Walz prevailed over Republican contender Jeff Johnson with a vow to bring to the governor’s office the bipartisan lawmaking style he exhibited during 12 years representing the First District in the U.S. House. Walz, a former Mankato high school teacher and coach, will be the first governor from Greater Minnesota since Rudy Perpich left office in 1990. His election signals Minnesotans’ desire to ease the rural-urban tension that has swelled in state government in recent years. That hostility has threatened to weaken one of the pillars of Minnesota’s 160-year success story — a willingness to flex the whole state’s muscle to shore up every community’s quality of life.
By sending a DFL majority to the state House, Tuesday’s voters dealt Walz a stronger governing hand than Dayton has held during his second term. The shift in the House should tell state lawmakers in both parties that voters want less gridlock and more accomplishment from state government. That’s an election message we’ll gladly amplify.
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