Just three days into the new year, Minnesota politics is once again in a full-frenzied tilt towards another presidential election cycle. On Wednesday, four Republican members of Congress who represent districts in Minnesota pledged their support for Donald Trump in the upcoming GOP presidential primary race.
But while presidential politics is sure to saturate much of the Minnesota media bandwidth in the coming months, those paying attention to the federal and state legislative branches of government will find there is much at stake beyond who wins the race to the White House this November.
In December, third-term legislator Rep. Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora, held a fundraiser on the Iron Range he represents as he builds a campaign war chest for what many believe will be a competitive defense of his House District 7B seat against newly declared Republican challenger Cal Warwas. The Iron Range Democrat won his 2022 re-election bid by just 470 votes over Republican Matt Norri. Many believe Warwas, a longtime miner and union member, will pose a serious threat to capturing what is now considered a potential swing-district seat that’s been held by DFLers for more than three decades. Other districts that broke by just a few percentage points (or less) for Democrats or Republicans include:
- 14B, currently held by Dan Wolgamott, DFL-St. Cloud
- 18A, currently held by Jeff Brand, DFL-St. Cloud
- 32B, currently held by Matt Norris, DFL-Blaine
- 35B, currently held by Jerry Newton, DFL-Coon Rapids
- 48B, currently held by Lucy Rehm, DFL-Chanhassen
- 3A, currently held by Roger Skraba, R-Ely
- 3B, currently held by Natalie Zeleznikar, R-Fredenberg Township
- 11A, currently held by Jeff Dotseth, R-Kettle River
- 14A, currently held by Bernie Perryman, R-St. Cloud
- 41B, currently held by Shane Hudella, R-Hastings
Even as the DFL holds a 70-64 advantage in the Minnesota House of Representatives, with at least one dozen seats in play in either direction, Republican leaders believe they have an opportunity to flip control and stave off the continuation of the DFL “trifecta.”
“My New Year’s resolution? Restore balance to Minnesota by flipping the House this November,” wrote House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, in a social media post asking for political contributions to the House Republican Campaign Committee.
Candidates seeking party endorsements for legislative seats typically launch their campaigns in the first eight weeks of the new year, if not earlier. While Republican and DFL kingmakers at the Capitol often recruit candidates for office for competitive districts, it’s possible that grassroots candidates will emerge in seats that don’t already have a declared candidate.
On the federal level, while 2022 saw Democrats and Republicans evenly split Minnesota’s eight congressional district seats, some are looking to see if the GOP can’t pick up one more seat in the second and third districts.
While three Republicans have already announced they’ll challenge three-term DFL incumbent Rep. Angie Craig for her Second Congressional District seat that represents much of the Twin Cities south metro, in the Third Congressional District, there is still no challenger to a now-open seat that represents much of the west metro.
In November, incumbent DFLer Dean Phillips announced he won’t seek a fourth term representing MN-CD3 in Congress, as he continues his longshot pursuit of winning the Democrat nomination for president from Joe Biden. He has essentially thrown his support to his longtime friend and current state Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven. Morrison appears to be the frontrunner for the Democrat endorsement, but she is being challenged by Democratic National Committee member Ron Harris.
Worth noting: If Morrison were to end up winning a seat in the U.S. House, she would have to leave her state Senate seat, triggering a special election in early 2025 that could determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the state Senate. Currently, the DFL holds a one seat, 34-33, majority.
Officials with the Republican Party of Minnesota said late last year they’ve “been in touch” with a number of individuals interested in running for Phillips’ seat that until 2018 had been held by the GOP for nearly half a century. But no names have surfaced to date.
The various congressional district endorsement conventions for both the DFL and Republican parties begin in March.
There is also one U.S. Senate seat in play. Democrat Amy Klobuchar is running for her fourth term. Just one recognizable Republican challenger has surfaced to date. That’s former Minnesota basketball star Royce White, who lost a primary bid for the MN-CD5 Republican nomination in 2022.
2024 Minnesota election calendar at a glance
Believe it or not, early mail-in voting for the GOP presidential primary election in Minnesota begins in just two weeks. The Minnesota Secretary of State website has a 2024 elections calendar page that provides a timeline for voters interested in participating in the primary process. Voters can mail in their ballots beginning Jan. 19. The in-person Presidential Primary Day is on Tuesday, March 5, when Minnesota joins 15 other states in holding their presidential primaries on what is known as “Super Tuesday.”
In the state House elections and federal elections (eight U.S. House seats and one U.S. Senate seat), a primary will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 13. Voters can begin voting by mail on June 28 for any primary races in those elections.
The general election will take place Tuesday, Nov. 5. Voters can mail in their ballots or vote in-person beginning Sept. 20.
Here are some other important political dates to note:
Feb. 12: Legislature is back in session
This is a bonding year at the State Capitol, but with a more than $2.4 billion budget surplus forecasted, Democrats who control the House and Senate are expected to prime the pump for some new spending programs and provisions.
Feb. 27: Precinct caucuses in Minnesota
In the past, this would be an opportunity for participants to cast presidential preference ballots, but in 2020 Minnesota moved to a presidential primary state. The precinct caucuses are the respective political party organizations’ most local gatherings to elect delegates to the state and congressional district endorsing conventions, which will come into play this year for intra-party state House and congressional races.
March 5: Presidential primary election
Minnesota may be one of the few states where Democrat presidential challenger Dean Phillips receives a significant turnout among primary voters against President Joe Biden. But technically speaking, there will be nine names on the Minnesota Democrat presidential primary ballot to choose from. On the Republican Party side, five names will be on the Minnesota ballot: Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy.
March through April: various congressional district conventions
May 16: Republican Party of Minnesota State Convention
May 20: Last day of legislative session
May 21: Filing period opens for candidates
May 31: DFL Party State Convention
July 15: Republican National Convention in Milwaukee
Aug. 13: Minnesota primary election for local, legislative and federal seats
Aug. 19: Democratic National Convention in Chicago
Sept. 20: Early voting begins in Minnesota
Nov. 5: Election Day
Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.