New year, new stories. A president will be elected to a four-year term. All 134 Minnesota House members are also on the November ballot, with the GOP eager to end the DFL's power monopoly at the Capitol. A look at some of the developments we expect in 2024 while we await the surprises none of us saw coming.
State surplus: The state got some good budget news in December: Minnesota has a projected $2.4 billion budget surplus. But the state's economic forecast also projected a deficit of almost the same size for the next two-year budget, a reality that could throw cold water on spending the surplus in the upcoming legislative session. Lawmakers will get updated numbers in February.
Sports gambling: A last-minute Senate legalization effort failed in 2023. Back-room talks continued after session ended and a deal may be forthcoming. The goal is a bipartisan vote on a proposal that satisfies the core players: racetracks that need revenue, tribes with exclusive gambling rights, and pro sports teams wanting in on the action that has exploded since a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing it.
U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips' presidential campaign: The third-term Democrat's challenge to President Joe Biden came as a slow-rolling surprise until he announced he was all-in and departing his U.S. House seat. How this unfolds and where Phillips lands may be similarly stunning — or not. He's hoping for momentum with a strong showing in New Hampshire's Jan. 23 primary.
Battle for the state House: In the 2024 election, Republicans have one shot at ending DFL control of state government, and that's through the state House. All 134 seats will be on the ballot, but fewer than a dozen are considered competitive. Republicans need to flip four seats to regain control. Areas like St. Cloud, the Iron Range and some Twin Cities suburbs will see millions in outside campaign spending to influence voters.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's challenger: Seeking her fourth six-year term, the DFL senior senator does not yet have a serious challenger on the November ballot. Remember state Rep. Jim Newberger? Probably not. He ran against Klobuchar in 2018. She got 60% of the vote to his 36%. The senator's tenacity as a campaigner, her political smarts and dogged attention to the details of constituent services make her a tough target for Republicans to try to unseat. Anybody interested? We've not heard rumblings, but anything can and does happen.
Congressional battlegrounds: Minnesota is expected to have at least two fierce primaries for congressional seats in August, including a rematch between DFL U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and former Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels in the Minneapolis-based Fifth District. Phillips' departure also created a competitive DFL race for the west-suburban Third District. In November, Republicans have again made DFL Rep. Angie Craig in Minnesota's south-central suburban Second District one of their top national targets.
Minnesota Supreme Court: Four of the seven justices are on the ballot this fall including Chief Justice Natalie Hudson and new Justice Karl Procaccini. Justices Margaret Chutich and Anne McKeig must also stand for re-election to new six-year terms in the nonpartisan elections. Justice G. Barry Anderson hasn't announced yet whether he will step down before he hits the mandatory retirement age of 70 in October. Depending on Anderson's timing, the entire court could be appointed by DFL governors by 2025.
Trump redux: The state Supreme Court may be asked to take another look at the petition seeking to remove former President Donald Trump from the Minnesota presidential ballot. In a 5-0 ruling last fall, the court said the issue is one for the general election, not the primary. Since then, Colorado and Maine have both declared Trump ineligible because of his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. If the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't decide the issue, expect the Minnesota court to be asked to reconsider the arguments this spring.
Cannabis leader wanted: Gov. Tim Walz is still trying to find someone with the right regulatory experience to lead the state Office of Cannabis Management, a critical appointment that will oversee the state's rollout of legalized marijuana. He's asking for new applicants more than three months after his initial pick, cannabis entrepreneur Erin DuPree, resigned following revelations that she sold illegal products at her hemp shop.