Months of candidates and campaigns, debates and advertisements culminated Tuesday as voters across the state turned out to cast their ballots with a mix of enthusiasm, anxiety and frustration.
Early on, Minnesotans realized the gravity of an election that will determine who holds key state and national offices, from the governor’s office, to both U.S. senators, several congressional races, and control of the state Legislature. According to the Secretary of State’s office, 614,895 Minnesotans voted early, slightly behind the early general election total in 2016. In a state that led the nation in voter turnout that year, another strong showing is expected.
In Lino Lakes, Republican voter Mark Marion said he is feeling anxious today — worried his party will not do well here in Minnesota or nationally. He said he has seen the Fox News polls. “It seems like we will lose the U.S. House and the Senate is a coin flip.”
Marion said this year’s negative campaign ads left a bad taste in his mouth.
“It’s such a huge waste. I just hate everyone talking about everyone else and not themselves,” Marion said.
Fatima Diallo, 31, lives in St. Paul and works at Wells Fargo. After becoming a citizen in 2015, she said, 2016 was her first election — and she voted Tuesday because of President Donald Trump.
“I am an immigrant child, I am a black woman — plus I’m a woman also — and I am a Muslim,” she said. “He doesn’t care about people like me.”
Diallo said she’s excited about Amy Klobuchar and Keith Ellison, and voted a straight DFL ticket.
“I think they will fight for people like me, and they will do better for Minnesota,” she said.
Adam Hill, a 30-year-old finance professional living in Oakdale, said he voted for mainly third party candidates.
“I don’t expect that to make a real impact except to maybe send a message to the two general parties,” he said. “I choose [third party] because I just don’t like where the national dialogue is at.”
Oakdale residents Cliff and Pati Warling, 75 and 73, respectively, chose different candidates despite echoing similar concerns about the cost of health care, which has become more personal since Cliff was diagnosed with kidney failure.
After researching the candidates and trying to tune out negative political ads, Cliff cast his ballot for Jeff Johnson and Pati for Tim Walz.
The rest of Cliff’s votes went to a mix of Republicans and Democrats, but he was quick to say he didn’t vote for Keith Ellison. Neither did Pati, agreeing that Ellison didn’t do enough to address an accusation of domestic violence against him. The two could also both agree they are ready for the negative political ads to cease.
“I don’t care what these candidates think of each other or how they can slam each other. I care about what they think they can do for us,” Pati said.
As the two walked out of polling place, both with “I voted stickers on their jackets, Pati said, smiling, “We are a house divided but at least we can talk about it. Maybe the House and Senate can learn something from us about that.”
Voters leaving Apple Valley’s Greenleaf Elementary said the U.S. House of Representatives race, which pits Angie Craig vs. Rep. Jason Lewis, was among the most important to them.
Rachel Clubb, 33, said she voted for Craig because “we have a lot of the same values.” Clubb, an Eagan salesperson, mentioned education and the state’s future as important.
“I like that she’s right in the middle,” Clubb said. “That’s what I am.”
Raylene Streed, 69, of Woodbury, voted for Jeff Johnson for governor.
“I support his values, his stance on the economy and the fact he is anti-abortion,” said Streed, who leads a nonprofit. She said the ideas of his democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, seem regarding health care seem unrealistic, Streed said.
“We need solutions but not pie in the sky solutions like Walz has,” she said.
Matt Prom and Val Castillo and their two young daughters were lined up when the polls opened at 7 a.m. to vote at their precinct in Lino Lakes. The couple leans liberal and said they showed up with a mix of emotions: anxious, angry, optimistic.
“We are definitely hoping for some change. We see things that are concerning to us as citizens,” Prom said.
Prom said he is concerned about the tone this election and worried about the racism and angry sentiments it’s evoking across the country.
“Its been more explicit this year,” Pram, a former high school civics teacher, said as his daughters Mae, 6, and Amelia, 3, nibbled cookies.
Several families visited the precinct at a steady clip, with their children in tow before heading to work. Voter Rhonda Steffes was among them, although she admitted she lacked enthusiasm.
“I am slightly above indifferent,” Steffes said. “I Just feel like I need to do my civic duty.”
At several Minneapolis polling places, a major election concern was the charter amendment to change the liquor rules for restaurants. Paul Dinger, 65, who is retired, and Dale Vanden Houten, 64, an artist, believed its time to change the rule that allows some businesses to serve while others just a few blocks away are restricted.
The Hennepin County attorney’s race was also a hot topic at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Richard Hallas, 64, who moved from England to Minneapolis 33 years ago, said Freeman seems to hand out fair justice. As for the president, his words weren’t so kind.
“I want to see the end of Trump,” he said. “He’s not the least bit presidential.”
Kent Luebke, 71, a graphic artist, wants Tuesday’s election to start having a healing effect on the county. Everybody seems so hostile, he said, and when one group is discredited by the government or on social media, “it discredits us all.”
“We have to take care of each other,” he said.
Voters gathered at Destiny Church in Burnsville to cast their ballots. Several voters said they don’t follow party lines when voting.
“Our state is going to pot,” said Sharon Kasat, 75, if Burnsville. “All they do is raise taxes.”
Kasat said she is still working as a cashier at 75. Some elected officials don’t care about older adults and their needs, she said.
“We used to be Democrat but we’re not voting one Democrat this year — that’s how upset we are.”
Chuck Chaika, 65, of Burnsville said he’s interested in the Senate races and wants to see U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, and Karin Housley win. He’s mostly a Democrat, he said, but likes Housley, the Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, because of her husband, Phil.
Chaika said he’s a hockey fan and went to South St. Paul schools like Phil Housley. “I really like their family,” he said.
On the other hand, he supports Klobuchar because of her pro-union stance. “She’s backing our Teamster union and pension, which is falling apart,” said Chaika, who is retired but moonlights as a DJ and private bus driver.
Lino Lakes voter Doug Drabek said he is liberal leaning and he supports the waves of women candidates this election.
“Men screwed up this country. Let’s give women a chance, “ Drabek said.
As he cast his ballot with his wife at the National Sports Center in Blaine, retired business owner Max Miller said he voted almost all Republican. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar was his one lone vote for a Democrat. He said the issue at the top of mind was partisan politics.
“They need to be able to work with the opposing party without being rude or restrictive, “ Miller said, adding that he also supports efforts to control the country’s borders, but that Trump’s bombastic style is hurting the party.
“ I think we should abide by our laws but I don’t think we should be inhumane. “
Shoreview voter Mary Hansen said that she too is nervous. She would like to see Democrats take control of Congress.
“I am very concerned about the way the country is going, the morale and the separation,” she said. “This is a very important election. “
She said she would like to see more bipartisan efforts in all levels of government and an end to extreme, hostile partisanship.
“I do believe there is a happy medium,” said Hansen, a retired manufacturing manager at a medical device company.
Cheryl Rude, 57, is a nurse who lives on the East Side of St. Paul. She said she was excited to see how many women ran for office this year, but in general was fed up with the amount of negative campaigning.
“This year especially, it’s been the negativity. You didn’t hear a lot of positive anything,” she said. “It was this person did this, and this person did that, and it’s like, you know what? We’re all human. And some of it is false anyway.”
Though Rude said she leans Democratic and voted mostly for DFLers on Tuesday, she voted for Jeff Johnson for governor, adding that she’s “not against a Republican if they’re doing the things I believe in.”
Shoreview physician Steven Voss describes himself as politically neutral but said he voted mostly for Democrats this election because of concerns around health care and gun control.
“ I don’t think it’s about which party is dominating. There needs to be cooperation among the 2 parties to do what is best for the people of the United States,“ he said.
Yamile Gonzales, a 30-year-old who lives in Woodbury and works as a general manager for a land service company, said she’s worried about hateful rhetoric surrounding politics.
“I really hope we can come together and talk like civilized people no matter what the results are,” she said.
Terri Anderson, a 57-year-old nurse who recently moved to St. Paul from Carver, Minn., said she votes on issues rather than down the party line. When she votes, she said, she thinks about her children and about issues including health care, immigration and gay rights.
“I voted straight Democrat because I want change,” she said. “And I so wish that we had this push for our presidential election [in 2016].”
In Maple Grove, negative advertising leading up to the election had its own impact.
Retiree Bob Kennedy, 66, sent his own message as a voter.
“I’ve been traditionally Republican, but I can’t stand the negative ads,” he said. “So I voted third party as a protest.”
Bill Lambert, 52, a firefighter from Maple Grove, voted for Democrats Dean Phillips for Congress, and Tim Walz for governor, motivated in part for his dislike of negative advertising.
“The outside money pouring in disgusted me,” he said. “When those ads come on the TV at the fire station, the TV gets muted quick, and we have quite a gamut of [political] views.”
Fred Hunt, 81, a retired dairy farmer from Maple Grove, said 2016’s outcome inspired his vote.
“Last time I voted Republican and I got stuck with Trump,” he said. I’ll never do that again.”
Rachel Residence, 25, said she’s generally a more conservative voter who considers abortion a key issue. Despite receiving lots of campaign mailers from Angie Craig, she gave her vote to Sen. Jason Lewis because he’s conservative, she said.
In addition, Residence, a stay-at-home mom of two who lives in Shakopee, said she loves the new federal tax system put in place by President Donald Trump. Taxes have been lower for her family, she said, and she’s seen higher child tax credits.
Jessica Sibet, 28, of Maple Grove said she usually doesn’t vote in midterm elections. But this year, a door-to-door canvasser got her interested in the Hennepin County sheriff’s race, where she voted for challenger Dave Hutch over Sheriff Rich Stanek.
Sibet, a nanny, also was influenced by a video she saw online pointing out that older people vote in much higher numbers than younger people.
“So I wanted to vote, because I’m going to be around a while,” she said.
Carver County is considered a Republican stronghold, and voters at the Chaska Moravian Church (in the first Precinct) definitely supported conservative candidates.
Mark Theis, 62, said he’s interested in the gubernatorial race and backs Jeff Johnson.
“We have to lower our taxes and get more competitive,” said Theis, an engineer from Chaska. “We can’t be in the top five [states for highest tax rates on businesses.]”
Brian Kloos, 26, says he votes largely based on his conservative values — that a candidate is anti-abortion is especially important, he said.
He’s an “old soul,” he said, and not like typical members of his generation.
“People my age depend on everything to be handed to them,” he said, adding that he values working for things instead. “I guess that’s just the way I was brought up.”
Kloos, an electrician from Chaska, doesn’t hold out hope that Republicans will win many races in Minnesota, he said, because the state is liberal.
James Schmidt, 19, said he’s invested in the race for governor and voted for Jeff Johnson. He liked Johnson’s earlier statements about immigration, when he had a stronger stance.
“I do like that rhetoric,” Schmidt said, referencing talk about tougher immigration laws. “I think stronger immigration laws get me a little more hyped up to vote.”
Kevin Vales, 63, is a retired St. Paul resident who voted downtown. He said “the blue wave” brought him out to vote.
“I always vote, but this year especially,” he said.
Of all the candidates on the ballot, Vales said he’s particularly excited about Tim Walz.
“I just like him,” he said. “From the minute I heard him speak. I know he was a teacher, he’s got a family — he’s been there.”
A steady stream of voters filed into Mount Calvary Educational Building in Richfield Tuesday morning, filing the small voting area in the basement. William Clark, 48, a software engineer, said he voted strictly for a Democratic ticket. Kathy Petersen, 64. did the same except in the governor’s race. She watched one of the governor’s debates and decided Jeff Johnson had a better plan for fixing a broken medical and health care industry.
For Chad Dorow, getting out to this year’s midterm election was important to “get the blue wave going.” The 40-year-old salesman said he would have voted in the midterm election under any circumstances.
About a mile away at Central School in Richfield, Trump supporter Royce Quinby said he is seeing too much corruption in government and “it’s hard to separate the good guys from the bad guys.” He voted Republican, but it’s getting harder to get to the truth in politics.
“I don’t know if people know what the definition of truth is,” said Quinby, 79, who works as a church consultant and Uber driver. “But you have to vote and do something.”
Taylor Phouthavonxay, 19, voted for the first time Tuesday.
“I thought it was pretty meaningful,” he said. “I mean, my vote counts, too.”
He said he voted for Democrats because his household generally supports the party. His family has been concerned about health care lately, including whether his grandparents will be able to afford it, he said.