Minnesota governor Tim Walz speaks in the State Capitol building in St. Paul Thursday, September 17, 2020. Photo by Nicole Neri/Minnesota Reformer
Live coverage of critical races in Minnesota’s 2022 general election.
3 weeks ago
Legislative update: a big night for the status quo?
A little over 90 percent of the vote is now in, and the legislative contests are shaping up to be a continuance of the status quo: while final seat margins will be close, one likely outcome is that the DFL could maintain control over the House while Republicans hold their edge in the Senate.
However it remains too early to say for certain where control will lie, a situation mirroring that in the U.S. House and Senate, where Republicans’ hoped-for gains have largely failed to materialize.
As Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen put it in his concession speech, “Republicans didn’t have a red wave, frankly we had a blue wave.”
Last updated: 1:43 am
3 weeks ago
U.S. Rep. Angie Craig wins re-election in expensive, bruising fight
U.S. Rep. Angie Craig won re-election to a third term against Republican Tyler Kistner in a bruising rematch that attracted millions in outside spending for a race that could determine which party controls the U.S. House.
The race was the most expensive congressional race in Minnesota history, with more than $15 million pouring in from outside groups and another $10 million spent by the campaigns, according to OpenSecrets.
Craig, 50, weathered headwinds for Democrats in her suburban Second Congressional District by securing a broad range endorsements from law enforcement, labor unions, farmers and pro-choice groups.
A former medical technology executive, Craig was sworn in in 2019 as the first lesbian mother to serve in Congress and the first openly gay congress member from Minnesota.
Kistner, 35, is a former Marine Corps officer from Prior Lake who hoped to oust Craig by blaming her and national Democrats for rising inflation and crime.
The race was also complicated by an uncanny repeat of 2020 with the death of a third party marijuana candidate. Legal Marijuana Now candidate Paula Overby, a potential spoiler for Craig, died last month but still won more than 10,000 votes.
In 2020, Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Adam Weeks, who was also running in Minnesota’s 2nd District, died shortly before the election. Weeks’ death triggered a legal battle over the timing of the 2nd Congressional election, and Democrats successfully pushed for the election to be held on Election Day.
Last updated: 12:38 am
3 weeks ago
‘Democracy is live and well in this state’: Walz thanks Minnesota after reelection win
Gov. Tim Walz thanked Minnesotans for reelecting him for another term Tuesday and urged people to put aside differences now that the midterms are over.
Walz addressed a DFL crowd and encouraged Minnesotans to come together after a divisive campaign in which Walz and his GOP opponent Scott Jensen regularly lobbed attacks at one another.
“Well, Minnesota, democracy is (alive) and well in this state,” Walz said. “Everyone is valued. Everyone matters.”
Jensen said in an email to his supporters that he called Walz and conceded the race.
“We fell short of our goal, but I am immeasurably thankful for the relationships that formed and the passion of our supporters across the state,” Jensen said in the email.
Walz during his speech thanked Jensen and Birk for running and encouraged them and their followers to help him craft Minnesota’s future, which may be a big ask given the state’s bitter political divisions.
“I want to make sure that all of us, with heartfelt sincerity, thank Scott Jensen and Matt Birk for putting themselves out there to run,” Walz said. “(I) now ask — let’s join together to solve Minnesota’s problems.”
Walz said to cheers from the DFL crowd that the expected red wave never appeared.
The former Mankato high school teacher and U.S. congressman said that in electing him for a second term, Minnesotans chose to prioritize education, climate change, women’s rights and building stronger communities. Walz also said the state can tackle its hardest problems, like public safety, in an “optimistic way.”
Walz thanked his family, campaign staff and the DFL Party, but sought to renew his 2018 campaign’s theme of unity.
“There is a society that we can create in Minnesota that makes life a little easier for our neighbors, that lifts up those that might be challenged,” Walz said. “… Let’s make it happen. Let’s go, Minnesota!”
Last updated: 12:48 am
3 weeks ago
Simon re-elected secretary of state
Secretary of State Steve Simon, the state’s top election administrator, won a third term Tuesday, bucking a difficult political environment for Democrats here and nationwide.
Minnesotans, who take pride in a civic culture that includes the nation’s highest voter turnout rate, rejected GOP nominee Kim Crockett’s argument that the state’s election system is fraught with fraud.
Voters gave a vote of confidence both to Simon’s election administration and Minnesota elections more broadly.
Simon was elected to the state House in 2004, serving as chair of the Elections Committee and fighting a 2012 voter ID constitutional amendment that would have been the most restrictive in the country. He wrote the “no excuses” absentee voting law, which allows Minnesotans to vote from home for any reason, and a law allowing online voter registration.
Crockett promised to make it more difficult to vote, with restrictions on voting by mail, requiring voters to show ID and shortening the early voting period.
Crockett made racist statements even before she ran for the office, and continued to draw outrage during the campaign.
At the state Republican convention last spring, her campaign played a video that depicted George Soros — a wealthy donor to progressive causes and Jewish Holocaust survivor — as a puppet master controlling Simon.
Crockett called the 2020 election “lawless” after Simon agreed to a judicially approved consent decree — after a voting rights group sued the state — to expand mail balloting for safe voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crockett, who was recently endorsed by former President Donald Trump, was part of a national right-wing network that aimed to recruit an army of activists to become poll workers, causing concern that they could create chaos and intimidate voters.
And as the election neared, Crockett’s husband called on law enforcement to be ready to respond to election fraud, even though state law bans cops from being within 50 feet of polling places except to vote or to “restore the peace.”
Last updated: 11:28 pm
3 weeks ago
11:00 PM legislative update
With about 41% of precincts reporting the legislative landscape hasn’t changed much: DFL still holds a lead in seats in both the House and Senate, driven in large part by more complete results coming out of Democratic strongholds.
There’s been at least one flipped seat in the House so far: Republican Donald Raleigh of Blaine has lost to DFL challenger Matt Norris. Raleigh’s name first popped up on our radar when it appeared in a leaked roster of Oath Keepers members. Raleigh maintained he disavowed the extremist group, and only signed up in the course of conducting market research for a project he was working on.
A note about the data: We’re only marking races as won when 100% of precincts are reporting their results. But even then, the numbers should be considered preliminary as there may be recounts and challenges in the days and weeks to come.
Last updated: 10:58 pm
3 weeks ago
Walz wins second term as Minnesota governor
DFL Gov. Tim Walz won another four year-term as governor Tuesday, surviving a difficult national political environment and a first term marked by crises.
The Associated Press called the race for Walz Tuesday night.
Jensen and his running mate Matt Birk did not concede in their first public speech since the AP called the race for Walz.
“We’re staying in this game. We’re going to continue to fight ’till we can’t fight no more,” Birk said at the GOP watch party Tuesday night.
Election results were still trickling in Tuesday evening, but Walz may have to work with a divided Legislature that could impede his agenda of increasing spending on education and clean energy economic initiatives.
Walz’s second term marks the first time in state history that the DFL has held the governorship for four consecutive terms.
Walz also bucked the midterm curse, when candidates in the same party as the president traditionally struggle.
In January, Walz will have to propose and gain support for his two-year budget that could reach $55 billion or more.
A former Mankato high school teacher and coach, Walz during his campaign had to answer for the many polarizing decisions he made during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and the police murder of George Floyd.
Walz told the Reformer last week that campaigning this time around was different from his first run in 2018 when he won the election by more than 11 points.
“This is probably the nastiest campaign I’ve been involved in. That wasn’t true last time,” Walz said.
Jensen, a Chaska family physician, focused his campaign on rising crime in Minnesota and attacked Walz for COVID-19 shutdowns. A former one-term senator, Jensen said as governor he would’ve eliminated Minnesota’s individual income tax, which would largely benefit wealthy Minnesotans and likely require cuts to programs like education and health care.
Last updated: 11:15 pm
3 weeks ago
Former public defender Mary Moriarty wins race for Hennepin County attorney
Long-time public defender Mary Moriarty handily beat former prosecutor and judge Martha Holton Dimick in the race for Hennepin County attorney in a major victory for reform-minded progressives.
Moriarty, 58, ran a campaign focused on increasing police accountability and expanding alternatives to incarceration when it “advances public safety.” That message stood in sharp contrast to Holton Dimick, who won endorsements from police and moderate Democrats by promising not to “mollycoddle these violent criminals.”
The Hennepin County attorney oversees 200 lawyers, including the largest staff of prosecutors in the state, handling crimes ranging from rapes to wage theft to police misconduct.
Moriarty joins a small group of former defense attorneys who have won the job of top prosecutor seeking to reform the criminal justice system, including Larry Krasner in Philadelphia and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, who was ousted earlier this year by voters concerned about rising crime.
Moriarty’s success follows a bruising election in 2021 for progressives who sought to defund the Minneapolis Police Department, when voters elected a more moderate Minneapolis City Council and rejected a ballot initiative to remove the minimum staffing levels for police and replace the police department with a new department of public safety.
The election for county attorney was the first since former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who did not seek reelection, referred the case to Attorney General Keith Ellison for prosecution.
Moriarty said she will make prosecution decisions herself when it comes to criminal police misconduct, rather than refer cases to other county attorneys or grand juries.
She also said she would try to improve the culture of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and build a more collegial relationship between prosecutors and public defenders. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has repeatedly failed to turn over evidence about police officers that could be favorable to defendants, known as Brady material.
Moriarty spent nearly her entire career as a criminal defense attorney. She was ousted as Hennepin County’s chief public defender in 2020 over allegations she shared offensive social media posts and created a fearful work environment. Moriarty and her allies — including Attorney General Keith Ellison — charge she was targeted for her racial justice advocacy, and she was awarded a $300,000 settlement.
3 weeks ago
Tracking the legislative contests
Polls are closed in Minnesota, which means returns are starting to trickle in to the Secretary of State’s website. As of 9:30 PM about 14% of the state’s voting precincts have reported results.
This graphic, which we’ll be updating as results come in, shows the progress toward the control of the legislative chambers. The tally so far includes a number of safe uncontested seats for both parties. The apparent DFL advantage at the moment is mostly a reflection of a high reporting rate among Twin Cities precincts. We’ll see how things shake out in the next few hours.
3 weeks ago
Minnesota elections run smoothly during pivotal midterms
Minnesota voters reported mostly short lines and few problems at the polls on Tuesday, reaffirming the state’s reputation for competent election administration and allaying concerns about voter intimidation by rogue poll monitors.
Motivated by false claims of widespread voter fraud, prominent Republicans across the country have sought to recruit an “army” of activists to watch elections. In Arizona, men belonging to an election denier group dressed up as if they were soldiers — with guns, bulletproof vests and face masks — and stood near ballot drop boxes last month during early voting.
In Minnesota, a Republican strategist suggested a right-wing pastor from exurban St. Michael bring a gun to his shift as a poll worker in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, the husband of Republican candidate for secretary of state Kim Crockett called for sheriff’s deputies to be ready to crack down on fraud, despite state law banning peace officers from being within 50 feet of polling places except to vote or “restore the peace.”
Those and other similar calls from right-wing activists for guards against imaginary fraud did not yield a visible presence at polling places.
The Secretary of State’s Office said as of Tuesday evening it had not received any reports about incidents of disturbance or threats of harassment in the state’s polling places.
Many election officials this year were briefed on physical security and taught de-escalation training, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon told the Reformer. (Simon is running for re-election as a Democrat.) This is new this year following a surge in election officials being harassed nationwide by election deniers following the 2020 election.
“While we have escaped the worst of it in Minnesota, it’s unfortunately an issue that’s national in scope,” Simon said. “We have to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”
At the Brian Coyle Community Center polling place near Cedar-Riverside in Minneapolis there was only one partisan poll challenger, and he was there for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. By state law, the only thing a poll challenger can do is contest a voter’s eligibility, if they know the voter is ineligible. But in practice, poll challengers report any problems to state party officials.
On a conference call on Tuesday, none of the DFL poll challengers were seeing Republican counterparts, the Brian Coyle poll challenger Peter Vader said.
Minnesota voters also reported just a few isolated incidents of election equipment malfunctioning, Simon said. All election equipment is tested in the two weeks leading up to an election to ensure everything is working properly, he said.
Voters in Chisago City had to wait in long lines, apparently due to a slow voting tabulator and two-page ballots. Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch, said during a Facebook live video that people were waiting in line out the door because a voting machine was taking about 40 seconds to process a single ballot.
Neu Brindley said she spoke to the Chisago County auditor, and officials were getting another voting machine to expedite ballot processing. She encouraged people to stay in line to vote, as people in line by 8 p.m. can still vote no matter what time they get to a voting booth.
Ramsey County spokeswoman Allison Winters said they haven’t experienced any problems with ballot counters, although a small number of ballots could not be read by the machine, which happens every election. She said in those cases, the ballots were destroyed and the voters were given a new one.
The minimal difficulties in Minnesota stood in stark contrast to the significant barriers many voters in Arizona and Pennsylvania faced.
About one in five polling locations in Arizona’s Maricopa County, one of the most populous counties in the country, reported problems with vote tabulators. The machines rejected some ballots for unknown reasons, confounding election administrators and forcing them to collect ballots in secured boxes to be counted later.
In Philadelphia, some voters were turned away after waiting in line to fix their flawed mail-in ballots that lacked signatures, dates or had another problem. An estimated 3,500 voters were in danger of having their ballots thrown out in Philadelphia alone, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Philadelphia is also expected to take several days to report results, delaying the outcome of a hotly contested U.S. Senate race, after reinstituting a process to screen for duplicate ballots from people who mailed in absentee ballots and then showed up to vote in person. In Luzerne County, Pa., voters were turned away after dozens of polling places ran out of paper for printing ballots.
Last updated: 6:38 pm
3 weeks ago
Absentee voting on pace with 2018 midterm elections
Early and absentee voting in Minnesota this year appears to be on pace with numbers from 2018, a record year for midterm voter turnout.
The latest data from the Secretary of State’s office show roughly 587,000 Minnesota voters successfully cast absentee ballots through November 7. The day prior to the election in 2018 that number stood at 540,000. In both cases, it adds up to about 16 percent of the state’s total number of registered voters.
Comparisons with 2020 are less useful because turnout is much higher in presidential election years, and an increase in mail balloting spurred by the pandemic made that year even less typical.
The relatively high early voting numbers could augur a similarly high-turnout midterm election this year. But it’s also likely that many voters opted for the convenience of absentee voting following positive experiences with it in 2020. Secretary of State Steve Simon has predicted that total turnout will exceed 60% this year, as it did in 2018 when 64% of eligible voters cast a ballot.
If turnout this year reaches 64.9% it would set a midterm record for contests going back to at least 1950.
In 2014, by contrast, just 51% of eligible Minnesota voters showed up, the poorest showing since 1986.
Voter participation here is consistently among the highest in the nation, with midterm turnout rates consistently higher than presidential turnout in many other states.
Last updated: 5:03 pm
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