Minnesota Democrats came roaring back to life. After the 2016 election, Democrats were worried that Minnesota was just one more Republican victory away from becoming like GOP-controlled Wisconsin. But helped by a massive turnout operation in the Twin Cities, and suburban voters' rejection of President Donald Trump, the Democrats won all the statewide races, as well as congressional races in both the east and west metro. And, Gov.-elect Tim Walz will have a Democratic House to work with after a startling run of DFL victories in suburban legislative districts.
GOP's statewide woes
Republicans have a statewide problem. Despite a spirited campaign by state Sen. Karin Housley against U.S. Sen. Tina Smith — who was unknown to most Minnesotans when she was appointed to replace Al Franken — Housley was soundly beaten. As Republican operative Gina Countryman glumly noted, GOP candidates in statewide races all registered surprisingly similar vote totals this year. They managed to consolidate Republican support, but failed to reach the rest of the public. The last Republican to win a statewide race was former Gov. Tim Pawlenty — in 2006. If they are to win a statewide race again, Republicans need candidates who can appeal to a wider audience.
The realignment of the state's politics is nearly complete. Just five years ago, Democrats were strongest in the cities but also held congressional seats in more rural areas of southern and northeastern Minnesota, while Republicans were solidly entrenched in many suburbs. Those days are gone. Republicans are now the party of greater Minnesota, while the suburbs join the major cities in favoring Democrats. The problem for Republicans: The Democratic areas are growing faster.
Women pick up power
It started with the women's march on Jan. 21, 2017, and continued with a bevy of strong candidate recruits. Smith and Klobuchar will return to Washington, D.C., and will be joined by two new Democratic women in the U.S. House, Angie Craig and Ilhan Omar. In Minnesota House races, a number of women challengers beat men, including Heather Edelson in Edina; Kristin Bahner in Maple Grove; Kelly Moller in Shoreview, and Anne Claflin in South St. Paul.
Let the Klobuchar presidential speculation begin. She won a crushing victory, with the usual plaudits from voters interviewed by the Star Tribune, for her ability to reach across the aisle. Klobuchar is a former prosecutor, a proven vote-getter from the Midwest, and she has good media skills. Expect to continue to hear her name in the mix as 2020 speculation starts to heat up.
Jessie Van Berkel, J. Patrick Coolican