Republican legislative leaders are hoping to turn a six-seat deficit in the Minnesota House of Representatives into a majority of their own come November. From a campaign fundraising perspective, House Republican Minority Leader Lisa Demuth believes they are on that trajectory.
Year-end totals for campaign committees representing both the GOP and DFL caucuses in the House made available by the state’s Campaign Finance Board show the House Republican Campaign Committee raised more than $1.17 million in 2023. That broke the committee’s previous off-year fundraising record of $1.14 million in 2017.
“Minnesotans have seen the consequences of single-party Democrat control and have stepped up to support our efforts to restore balance to Saint Paul,” said Demuth, of Cold Spring, who is heading into her second session as the ranking Republican in the state House. “I’m so grateful for the generous support we’ve seen over the past year from our members, small-dollar donors, and other supporters, and I have my sights set on breaking records again in 2024.”
Measured against that optimism is the DFL House Caucus 2023 fundraising totals that amounted to almost $1.9 million. By comparison, in 2021 the DFL House Caucus raised $1.5 million and the HRCC raised just under $1 million. Both caucuses fully anticipate they’ll double or even triple those fundraising numbers over the next nine months.
During 2022, the DFL House Caucus raised more than $7.4 million, compared to the HRCC fundraising mark of $2.93 million, which helped Democrats maintain their 70-64 advantage from the previous biennium.
Minnesota among three state House chambers national GOP group believes can flip
Despite not having the campaign cash advantage, Demuth believes the Republican State Leadership Committee’s announcement last month that Minnesota will be one of its top targets this fall is encouraging.
On the state party level, the Minnesota DFL boasted last week that it raked in nearly $9.5 million in fundraising last year. That’s compared to the Republican Party of Minnesota’s 2023 fundraising totals of just more than $2.4 million.
“Our historic off-year fundraising in 2023 puts us in a strong position to defend the historic achievements that DFLers have delivered for Minnesota,” said DFL Chairman Ken Martin.
Candidates in competitive districts building their own war chests
While the dollars raised by the House caucuses and state parties will help drive support to the most competitive seats, those House members who know their incumbent status is vulnerable are not resting on their laurels.
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 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.
An east metro House seat (41A) is also now an open race, after first-term Rep. Mark Wiens, R-Lake Elmo, announced he is running for Washington County Board. Wiens defeated incumbent DFLer Patty Driscoll by just 128 votes in November 2022.
Other districts that broke by just a few percentage points (or less) for Democrats or Republicans and are expected to be competitive 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
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.