2012 Minnesota Election Report

by Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.

It was a big night for Democrats in Minnesota. As expected, President Obama carried the State by 53% to 45% for Mitt Romney, while Senator Amy Klobuchar was elected in a landslide, 65% to 30% for Kurt Bills. Most surprisingly of all, Democrats captured control of both houses of the Minnesota Legislature.

Federal Races

President Obama’s 53% to 45% victory tracked recent polls in Minnesota and confirmed the State’s status as decidedly blue. Senator Klobuchar had raised over $4 million to protect her seat, but faced a lackluster challenger in first term State Representative Kurt Bills. Bills maintained his day job as a high school teacher while trying to challenge Klobuchar. Klobuchar may take some of her remaining campaign kitty to begin exploring a race for President in 2016.

The Minnesota Congressional delegation will remain unchanged except for the Eighth District. Congressman Chip Cravaack defeated long-term DFL incumbent Jim Oberstar in 2010 in what had been thought to be a safe Democratic seat. Former Congressman Rick Nolan, a wood pallet manufacturer from near Brainerd, Minnesota, cruised to a 54% to 45% victory over Cravaack. Minnesota’s other incumbent Congressmen were re-elected in relatively easy races with the exception of Michele Bachmann in the Sixth District. Bachmann pulled out a 950 vote victory over DFL candidate Jim Graves, a hotel developer from St. Cloud.

State Races

The most far reaching development of the night by far was the switch in control of the Minnesota Legislature from Republicans to Democrats. Voters in 2010 had given Republicans control of both the House and the Senate for the first time since 1970. Although there is the possibility of some recounts, Senate DFL candidates had 39 seats to 28 seats for the Republicans. In the House, which had been thought to be a safer Republican bastion, Democrats won a 73 to 61 margin of control. There will be a total of 65 new members in our 201 seat Legislature, 44 new members in the House and 21 new members in the Senate.

The DFL Victories

Due to the legislative victories, next session will mark the first time in 22 years Democrats will control both the Minnesota Governor’s office and the Minnesota Legislature. For the last two years, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has been dealing with a Republican Legislature that stymied his major initiates. We expect the Dayton Administration to proceed with comprehensive tax reform, health care reform, and budgetary initiatives. The DFL legislative caucuses will meet in the next few days to elect leaders, although Senator Tom Bakk will almost certainly be elected Senate DFL Majority Leader and Paul Thissen will be the DFL candidate for Speaker of the House. There will likely be a spirited contest for House DFL Majority Leader.

Constitutional Amendments

In hopes of spurring Republican voter turnout, the Republican led Legislature placed two constitutional amendments on the ballot. Both were defeated. The first amendment would have enshrined in the Constitution a ban on same sex marriage and the second amendment would have required voters to show a photographic identification before voting. The marriage amendment failed, attracting 48% of voters. The defeat of the same sex marriage ban marked the first time that such a statewide initiative was defeated in the United States. The voter ID amendment had proven to be very popular in most pre-election polling, but only garnered 46% of the vote. Election analysts will certainly be examining the results to determine what effect the turnout against the constitutional amendments had on the election of the DFL Legislature.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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