4 swing races give Minnesota outsize role in US House battle

Published 11-07-2018

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Compelling storylines were everywhere in Minnesota's midterm election, with Democratic Rep. Tim Walz defeating Republican Jeff Johnson to make the jump from Congress to the governor's residence and Democratic Sen. Tina Smith keeping her seat - all while four swing congressional races made the state a national battleground.

The state's special election for Senate was critical, with voters retaining Smith for the final two years of Al Franken's term over Republican challenger Karin Housley.

Control of the state Senate turned on a single seat up for special election. And Rep. Keith Ellison's bid for attorney general, clouded by a domestic abuse allegation, drew far more attention to that race than usual.

But it was the struggle for the U.S. House that had many national observers eyeing Minnesota, where half of the eight seats were realistic prospects for changing parties.

U.S. HOUSE

In northeastern Minnesota's 8th District, Pete Stauber, a St. Louis County commissioner and retired Duluth police officer, gave Republicans their best chance nationwide of picking up a Democratic seat that opened with Rep. Rick Nolan's retirement. Joe Radinovich, a former state representative, was the Democrat fighting to keep the seat blue.

In southern Minnesota's 1st District, Jim Hagedorn, the son of a former congressman, was making his fourth run for a seat that opened when Walz ran for governor. The former Treasury Department official faced Iraq war veteran Dan Feehan, who was acting assistant secretary of defense for readiness in the Obama administration.

In the suburban 3rd District, Democratic businessman Dean Phillips defeated Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen. Paulsen formerly ran his family's liquor company and is a grandson of the late advice columnist Abigail Van Buren, better known as Dear Abby. In the suburban/rural 2nd, Jason Lewis was in a close rematch with Democratic former medical device company executive Angie Craig after narrowly beating her in 2016.

History was made in the solidly Democratic 5th District, where state Rep. Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American - and one of the first two Muslim women - elected to

In southern Minnesota's 1st District, Jim Hagedorn, the son of a former congressman, was making his fourth run for a seat that opened when Walz ran for governor. The former Treasury Department official faced Iraq war veteran Dan Feehan, who was acting assistant secretary of defense for readiness in the Obama administration.

In the suburban 3rd District, Democratic businessman Dean Phillips defeated Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen. Paulsen formerly ran his family's liquor company and is a grandson of the late advice columnist Abigail Van Buren, better known as Dear Abby. In the suburban/rural 2nd, Jason Lewis was in a close rematch with Democratic former medical device company executive Angie Craig after narrowly beating her in 2016.

History was made in the solidly Democratic 5th District, where state Rep. Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American - and one of the first two Muslim women - elected to Congress. Omar faced Republican Jennifer Zielinski in the Minneapolis-area district.

LEGISLATURE

One hundred and thirty-five legislative elections will determine control of the Minnesota Legislature - 134 House seats and just one Senate district.

That special Senate election, in a rural St. Cloud-area district, was triggered when GOP Sen. Michelle Fischbach resigned the seat to be sworn in as lieutenant governor. It's generally a safe GOP district, but Fischbach's departure left the Senate deadlocked at 33-33, raising the stakes for Tuesday's election. Minnesota's 66 remaining Senate districts aren't on the ballot until 2020.

The race pits former Sartell mayor and county commissioner Joe Perske against GOP Rep. Jeff Howe, who has represented half of the district since 2013. With two weeks to go, more than $1 million of mailers and political spending had poured in.

In the House, the focus was on the suburbs. That's where Democrats staked their bid to reclaim the 11 seats necessary to flip control of the House, which Republicans have held since 2015.

Democrats hoped P

History was made in the solidly Democratic 5th District, where state Rep. Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American - and one of the first two Muslim women - elected to Congress. Omar faced Republican Jennifer Zielinski in the Minneapolis-area district.

LEGISLATURE

One hundred and thirty-five legislative elections will determine control of the Minnesota Legislature - 134 House seats and just one Senate district.

That special Senate election, in a rural St. Cloud-area district, was triggered when GOP Sen. Michelle Fischbach resigned the seat to be sworn in as lieutenant governor. It's generally a safe GOP district, but Fischbach's departure left the Senate deadlocked at 33-33, raising the stakes for Tuesday's election. Minnesota's 66 remaining Senate districts aren't on the ballot until 2020.

The race pits former Sartell mayor and county commissioner Joe Perske against GOP Rep. Jeff Howe, who has represented half of the district since 2013. With two weeks to go, more than $1 million of mailers and political spending had poured in.

In the House, the focus was on the suburbs. That's where Democrats staked their bid to reclaim the 11 seats necessary to flip control of the House, which Republicans have held since 2015.

Democrats hoped President Donald Trump's unpopularity in the suburbs would sink incumbent Republicans in local races. Republicans, meanwhile, were looking to stem their losses by capturing several swing districts where Democrats were retiring.

OTHER STATEWIDE

Secretary of State Steve Simon sought a second term as chief elections officer, emphasizing his work on beefing up cybersecurity to protect the election system from hacker attacks, and on boosting voter turnout. His Republican challenger was former state senator and former Red Wing mayor John Howe, who highlighted the office's lesser-known functions of business registrations.

In the race for the open position of state auditor, Republican Pam Myhra, a certified public accountant, former state representative from Burnsville and former audit manager for the accounting firm KPMG, faced Democrat Julie Blaha, of Ramsey, former secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, former math teacher and former president of the teachers' union in the Anoka-Hennepin school district.

Associate Justice Margaret Chutich sought re-election to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Her opponent, family law attorney Michelle MacDonald, was making a third run for the high court despite a past that included having her law license suspended for professional misconduct allegations. She remains on probation.

VOTING

Minnesotans embraced their expanded right to vote early. More than 600,000 people had already voted via absentee and mail-in ballots by Tuesday morning.

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For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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