Election 2018: Walz wins, House flips, Senate stays the same

For the first time since Governor Rudy Perpich (1976-79, 1983-91), Minnesota’s executive branch will be led by a governor from Greater Minnesota. With 54 percent of the vote, Tim Walz bested Jeff Johnson to win the governor’s race.

Governor-elect Walz, who lives in Mankato, campaigned heavily under the motto “One Minnesota,” which focused on building bridges to close the divides between Republicans and Democrats, urban versus rural and other schisms that exist across the state and across our political landscape. On the campaign trail, Walz championed the importance of Greater Minnesota and the role that all communities across the state play in making Minnesota’s economic engine run.
 
In addition to determining Minnesota’s next governor, control of both the Minnesota House and Senate were on the line this election. On the House side, the Democrats needed to win 11 seats to take the majority. Most pundits expected Democrats to gain seats, possibly winning enough to gain control. In the end, they won 18 seats, which gives them a 76-58 majority. In Greater Minnesota, John Persell (DFL-Bemidji) beat Matt Bliss (R-Pennington), reclaiming a seat he lost two years ago after serving in the House from 2009 to 2017. Persell won by just eight votes, which will trigger an automatic recount. Dan Wolgamott (DFL-St. Cloud) beat Jim Knoblach (R-St. Cloud) after Knobloch suspended campaigning after allegations of child abuse arose in September. The remaining 16 seats picked up by the Democrats were all in the Twin Cities suburbs. Of the Democrats’ 76-seat House majority, only 17 (22 percent) members represent districts in Greater Minnesota. It is expected that Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), who is currently House minority leader, will be elected House Speaker when the caucus gathers to select its leadership. If so, she was take over the position that Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) has held since January 2015.
 
This was not a year that was initially expected to be consequential for the Minnesota Senate. However, when Sen. Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) joined Tim Pawlenty’s gubernatorial ticket, it opened up a Republican seat in a body where the Republicans held a 34-33 majority. Rep. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville) faced Joe Perske, former mayor of Sartell. Howe won the race with 57 percent of the vote, maintaining Republican control of the Senate with a one-vote majority.
 
After this election, Minnesota will be only state in the nation with different parties controlling the House and Senate. With a DFL House whose membership skews heavily urban/suburban, a Republican Senate whose membership is heavily from Greater Minnesota, and a new governor, we will likely need to spend considerable time educating new legislators, agency commissioners and staff in the administration. Additionally, with the significant number of metro-area legislators in the House, we will need to act strategically in building opportunities to advance the priorities of our Greater Minnesota communities.      
 
For a more detailed recap of the election and to learn more about what to expect in the upcoming legislative session, please join us next week at the CGMC Fall Conference.