Observers say the Republican Party hasn't changed with the times.
State Rep. Ann Lenczewski has represented Bloomington at the State Capitol for 14 years, the first DFLer ever elected to the House from that part of the city. Over the years, she got used to being a DFL island in a sea of Republicans.
Not so this year. Last week Lenczewski won reelection for an eighth term, but now her district is part of a swath of DFL territory stretching from Edina into Dakota County. For the first time ever, Bloomington and Edina have all-DFL representation at the Capitol.
"That has never happened before," she said.
The change is especially dramatic in Edina, the one first-ring suburb that DFLers didn't regularly win in. While Richfield, Golden Valley and St. Louis Park have had steady DFL representation, Edina has usually gone Republican.
Lonni Simpson Skrentner is a retired Edina High School civics teacher who is something of a student on her adopted hometown's politics. She said she was "floored" by some of this year's election results, particularly city voters' opposition to the marriage amendment.
"My impression of Edina is that it has always been fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and that's borne out in this year's election results," she said.
The DFLers who won in Edina, including former Republican Ron Erhardt, Paul Rosenthal and Melisa Franzen, "were very careful to sound as moderate as possible," Skrentner said. "Franzen stressed her business background. ... I think part of this is the Republican Party going too far to the right."
Lenczewski said that with the presidential race and two controversial constitutional amendments on the ballot, it's hard to know exactly what drove voters to the DFL. She said that while demographic changes and anger over the 2011 government shutdown may have affected the results, the winning candidates campaigned as centrists who wanted to solve problems.
"In some cases, they ran against highly partisan people," she said. "A lot of these candidates said they wanted to find common ground. It really repudiates the extremes on both parties. People want us to work together. Compromise is not a dirty word."
In House District 48A, which includes part of Eden Prairie and Minnetonka, incumbent Republican Kirk Stensrud was narrowly defeated by DFLer Yvonne Selcer. But Republicans held on to seats further to the west and south in the west metro.
Tyler Armstrong, a young conservative from Edina who helps moderate the bipartisan Facebook discussion site Politics in Edina, said he thought the Republican Party had an image problem coming into the election. But he was still "very surprised" at the election results.
"I think Edina and Bloomington are affluent cities that are now getting younger, and the Republican Party underestimated that," he said. "They were a little stuck in their ways."
At age 25, the staunch Republican and soon-to-be-doctor said he voted against the marriage amendment.
"If I had it my way, Republicans would give up on social issues," he said. "They just divide people when we have much bigger issues to deal with. All that emotion spilled over into these other local races."
Armstrong was particularly upset with Republican Keith Downey's loss as Downey tried to move from the state House to the Senate, where he lost to newcomer Franzen. Armstrong attributed the loss to a large influx of money and negative campaigning. But he said overall, the Republican losses reflect bigger change.
He thinks Edina has grown more socially liberal in the past five years. While he disagrees that Republicans have gone too far to the right, he said the party hasn't evolved with the people.
"We need to stick to what we're good at -- streamlining government and bringing that down to the local level. That resonates in Edina.
"And we need to learn that as a party."
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan