The Potluck

Minnesota DFL, progressive allies vastly outspent Republicans but lost ground in the Legislature

By: - February 2, 2021 1:13 pm

The Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul as the sun sets on Election Day, November 3, 2020. Photo by Tony Webster.

Minnesota Democrats failed to reclaim a majority in the Minnesota Senate and lost ground in the House, despite massively outspending Republicans, according to newly published campaign finance reports. 

The state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, Senate DFL caucus and House DFL caucus spent a combined $25 million last year while the Minnesota Republican Party and Republicans in the House and Senate spent $7 million, according to year-end reports. 

The DFL’s legislative struggles came despite Joe Biden beating President Donald Trump by more than 7 points here, despite the Trump campaign’s targeting the state and spending national party resources here. U.S Sen. Tina Smith also won with a relatively comfortable margin. 

The DFL, however, failed to win back a majority in the Senate, managing to flip fewer seats than required: they included seats in Burnsville and St. Cloud and winning a western suburban seat vacated by a GOP state senator. The House DFL, meanwhile, lost a handful of seats and began the year with a smaller majority. 

Outside groups similarly spent heavily in key Senate races, spending upwards of $1 million in districts where Republican incumbents like Sen. Warren Limmer of Maple Grove and Sens. Carla Nelson and David Senjem of Rochester held on to their seats. 

“Money doesn’t always lead to victory,” tweeted Bill Walsh, the former communications director for Senate Republicans who now works for the Center of the American Experiment. 

The DFL continued to struggle in greater Minnesota, while failing to pick up enough seats in the suburbs to claim a Senate majority. 

Minnesota remains the only state in the country to have a divided Legislature. 

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.