Special Election Results Are In, Balance of Power Stays The Same

Republican Jeremy Munson easily defeated Democrat Melissa Wagner in the House District 23B special election, and Democrat Karla Bigham narrowly defeated Republican Denny McNamara in the Senate District 54 special election.

Democrat Karla Bigham and Republican Jeremy Munson

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The results for Monday night’s special election are in, and the balance of power in the state legislature will stay the same.

Republican Jeremy Munson easily defeated Democrat Melissa Wagner in the House District 23B special election, keeping the seat in Republican hands. Munson walked away with 59 percent of the vote to Wagner’s 40 percent. Munson will replace former Republican Rep. Tony Cornish who resigned last year following allegations of sexual misconduct.

“I am so grateful to the people of this district for their support and I promise that I will not let them down,” Munson wrote on Facebook. “In my campaign I promised to bring common-sense values to St. Paul and I will follow through. Too often legislators forget that the issues they debate affect real people, and I will never stop fighting for everyone in the district. I intend to make a difference.”

In Senate District 54, Democrat Karla Bigham will replace former Democrat Sen. Dan Schoen, who also resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations. Bigham narrowly defeated her Republican challenger Denny McNamara, winning 51 percent of the vote to McNamara’s 47 percent.

“I am excited and humbled at the opportunity to be your State Senator,” Bigham wrote on Facebook. “We have a lot of work to do at the Capitol on behalf of all residents of the district.”

Both special elections attracted statewide attention with many considering the races as a preview for the upcoming midterms. While Democrats hoped to take both seats, turning House District 23B blue, the party only narrowly held onto their seat in the Senate. Bigham won her seat by a lower margin than Schoen.

While Republicans failed to add to their majority in the Senate, the close race could give Republicans hope going into the midterms. McNamara’s narrow loss was the closest Republican’s have been to winning the district since redistricting in 2012.

Munson’s win in the House District 23B special election also boosts the party’s confidence going into the midterms. House District 23B, while having a Republican state representative, does not always favor the GOP. In 2014, the last midterm election, Democrat Sen. Al Franken and Democrat Rep. Tim Walz both won the district. The Republican candidate for governor in 2014, Jeff Johnson, narrowly won the district with less than 48 percent of the vote. Munson’s win could be an early signal of success for the GOP in the upcoming election cycle. 

Jennifer Carnahan, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, expressed optimism following Munson’s win in Monday night’s election.

“Tonight’s victory in House District 23B demonstrates that Trump still maintains strong support across greater Minnesota and that the people want to see Republicans continue to lead our state,” Jennifer Carnahan, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, said in a statement obtained by the Star Tribune.

No swearing-in dates have been set. The 2018 legislative session begins February 20.

Christine Bauman