Minnesota GOP 'soul searching' after statewide drubbing

Minnesota Gov. elect Tim Walz celebrates during the election night event held by the Democratic Party Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)

Democrats cruised to easy victories up and down the ballot, as Tim Walz won an open governor's race by more than 11 percentage points over Republican Jeff Johnson.

Posted: Nov 8, 2018 7:59 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — It was a tale of two political parties in Minnesota on Wednesday: resurgent Democrats who tightened their grip on the governor's office and two U.S. Senate seats in Tuesday's election, and wincing Republicans shut out of statewide contests for a 12th straight year and swept out of power in the Minnesota House.

Democrats cruised to easy victories up and down the ballot, as Tim Walz won an open governor's race by more than 11 percentage points over Republican Jeff Johnson. U.S. Sen Tina Smith won voters' approval to finish former Sen. Al Franken's term by a similar margin. After fears that he would lose a race for attorney general marred by allegations that he once physically abused an ex-girlfriend and his opponent's controversial legal career, Keith Ellison won the race by nearly 4 percentage points.

Behind each election lies a troubling and familiar trend for Republicans: They keep losing ground in Minnesota's metropolitan core and surrounding suburbs.

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty stitched together the party's last statewide victory in 2006 by holding pace in the state's population centers, with 47 percent of the vote in Minnesota's seven-county metropolitan area, while winning over rural voters. But the GOP's share of the urban and suburban vote has steadily slipped.

Johnson lost to outgoing Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014 thanks largely to a 133,000-vote edge in the metro. On Tuesday night, Walz beat Johnson in the same seven counties of Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, Washington, Dakota, Carver and Scott by 372,000 votes.

"The suburbs were a massacre," former Republican House Minority Leader Marty Seifert said. "The pathway to victory is going to have to be cobbling together a coalition ... that runs through the suburbs into rural Minnesota. You can't have one or the other — you've got to have both.

"We're going to have to do some soul searching," he added.

The state's record-breaking turnout — nearly 2.6 million voters cast ballots in Minnesota in the midterm election, according to the secretary of state's office — was centered in that region. And there were other factors at play that helped Democrats keep Republicans off the board for a fifth consecutive election.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a popular Democrat who easily clinched a third term against a little-known opponent with 60 percent of the vote, helped other Democrats on the ballot. Both parties concede a backlash against President Donald Trump and his party was a factor — Minnesota is no stranger to midterm swings.

But even in strong years for Republicans nationwide like midterm elections during former President Barack Obama's administration, statewide GOP candidates have been unable to break through in Minnesota. And the effects of Democrats' strong night at the top of the ticket spilled down ballot.

Democratic House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman credited a combination of strong candidates and top-of-ticket help — including from two Democratic candidates who easily unseated incumbent Republican Reps. Erik Paulsen and Jason Lewis in the suburbs — with Democrats' takeover of the House.

Democrats won 17 GOP-held districts to retake the majority — all but one in the Minneapolis-area suburbs. An 18th potential flip of a Bemidji House seat will be subject to a state-funded recount — former Democratic Rep. John Persell won back his district by just eight votes, according to unofficial results.

"The Republican Party leadership of right now is out of touch with urban and suburban voters. I don't think that they're getting these voters back unless they change what their party is about," said Hortman, adding that Democratic suburban candidates put new gun restrictions, abortion access and public school funding at the heart of their campaigns.

It wasn't all bad news for Republicans. The party clung to its one-seat majority in the state Senate with a special election win in a heavily conservative central Minnesota district. Former Sen. Michelle Fischbach's departure in May to be sworn in as lieutenant governor triggered an all-out brawl for the Senate majority, but GOP Rep. Jeff Howe easily won that seat.

And at the federal level, Republicans flipped two open congressional districts now held by Democrats. Local county commissioner Pete Stauber handily won northeastern Minnesota's 8th Congressional District. Republican Jim Hagedorn broke through on his fourth try in Minnesota's 1st Congressional District, defeating Democrat Dan Feehan by a razor-thin margin.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 448268

Reported Deaths: 6013
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin931011480
Ramsey40016739
Dakota33072340
Anoka30999364
Washington20164228
Stearns17871187
St. Louis13690241
Scott1195496
Wright11614104
Olmsted1048475
Sherburne821365
Carver694836
Clay653280
Rice606868
Kandiyohi554371
Blue Earth541033
Crow Wing482774
Otter Tail457167
Chisago452732
Benton420186
Winona389646
Douglas374166
Nobles370846
Mower365529
Goodhue347958
Polk328658
McLeod325345
Morrison311744
Beltrami310347
Lyon302236
Becker284939
Itasca284543
Isanti282841
Carlton280043
Steele27379
Pine266713
Freeborn245321
Todd231730
Nicollet224636
Brown215134
Mille Lacs214246
Le Sueur210015
Cass207623
Meeker199733
Waseca189316
Wabasha17083
Martin170026
Roseau165416
Hubbard149338
Redwood139727
Renville137539
Houston135913
Dodge13474
Chippewa131332
Cottonwood127218
Fillmore12355
Wadena120116
Rock110212
Sibley10857
Aitkin108433
Watonwan10668
Faribault105916
Pennington99215
Kanabec97818
Pipestone94423
Yellow Medicine93714
Murray8815
Jackson85610
Swift83418
Pope7385
Marshall70215
Stevens7018
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake63715
Wilkin6259
Koochiching59610
Lincoln4841
Big Stone4573
Unassigned43768
Grant4298
Norman4248
Mahnomen4107
Kittson37219
Red Lake3174
Traverse2503
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1140

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 305606

Reported Deaths: 4278
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45754449
Linn17795275
Scott15444163
Black Hawk13773236
Woodbury13016175
Johnson1211749
Dubuque11387150
Pottawattamie8992112
Dallas888671
Story869434
Webster469771
Cerro Gordo466768
Sioux455157
Clinton450361
Warren443938
Marshall427761
Buena Vista393429
Muscatine390477
Des Moines381841
Plymouth350368
Wapello344198
Jasper321959
Lee317130
Marion304952
Jones271349
Henry264330
Carroll255434
Bremer245048
Crawford231022
Boone218417
Washington217632
Benton209444
Mahaska193136
Jackson192031
Tama187757
Dickinson186026
Delaware173736
Kossuth173644
Clay168820
Wright164824
Fayette162322
Hamilton160029
Buchanan159923
Winneshiek155719
Harrison155162
Hardin154729
Cedar153219
Clayton151448
Butler148224
Page144715
Floyd139636
Cherokee139027
Mills136416
Lyon135332
Poweshiek132724
Hancock130224
Allamakee127928
Iowa125422
Calhoun12279
Grundy121226
Jefferson120724
Madison12039
Winnebago119429
Mitchell116234
Louisa115030
Cass113341
Chickasaw111612
Sac111215
Emmet110831
Appanoose110538
Union108822
Humboldt105519
Guthrie103024
Shelby102926
Franklin102418
Unassigned9310
Palo Alto9079
Montgomery85622
Keokuk85026
Howard84219
Monroe81218
Clarke7957
Pocahontas77611
Ida74630
Greene6927
Davis69121
Adair68820
Lucas6508
Monona64016
Osceola6409
Worth6113
Taylor5949
Fremont5126
Van Buren49712
Decatur4894
Ringgold4389
Audubon4158
Wayne41421
Adams2963
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