West metro Senate race will feature three-way DFL primary

Republican candidate Kathleen Fowke will lean on her experience campaigning in the district as she focuses on the general election.

Republican candidate Kathleen Fowke will lean on her experience campaigning in the district as she focuses on the general election. (Kathleen Fowke for Senate)

A field of three DFL candidates vying for a west metro state Senate seat — that could determine control of the legislature — has emerged as a two-day window to file for the special election closed on Tuesday.

That means there will be a Democrat primary in Senate District 45 on Aug. 13. Ann Johnson Stewart, who served one term in the state Senate from 2021 to 2023, will take on political newcomers Emily Reitan and Kyle Jasper Meinen.

Ann Johnson Stewart/Minnesota Senate

That also means Kathleen Fowke — the lone Republican to file for the newly-open legislative seat following Sen. Kelly Morrison’s June 6 resignation (as she runs for Congress) — will have somewhat of a campaigning advantage over her yet-to-be-determined general election opponent.

“I want to make sure that when we get out to the doors and begin talking with voters, we are listening to what’s really important to our community here in the district, and also in our communities around the state,” Fowke, a realtor and business owner, told Alpha News. The mother to four and Tonka Bay resident said she believes voters in her district value many of the same priorities, including improvements to clean water and air, supporting reliable and affordable energy resources and curbing the unprecedented increase in state spending that the DFL legislature and Gov. Tim Walz wrote into the budget in 2023.

And the stakes for the outcome of any one state Senate race have maybe never been higher.

“Costs of essentials are through the roof,” Fowke said. “(The legislature) needs to ease the squeeze on our wallets, when it comes to spending and taxes.”

While the DFL currently holds a one-seat majority in the Senate, the timing of Morrison’s resignation last week allows the special election for SD45 to be included on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. If Morrison were to have resigned later this summer, or after the outcome of her race for Minnesota’s Third Congressional District, a special election would have been held on a separate date after Nov. 5.

That’s not lost on Fowke, who fell short to Morrison by 12 points in a 2022 contest for the Senate district that includes a geographic boundary represented in House District 45A by Republican Andrew Meyers and House District 45B by DFLer Patty Acomb.

“I think it’s fair to say that Sen. Morrison has always had an aspiration to keep moving forward in her political career,” Fowke said. “But we know (with the timing of her resignation) that this election is going to be very much in the spotlight this go round. I’m ready for that. And at the end of the day, I really hope our community members get involved, because if the community decides they want to get out there and help a candidate in the district they live, that’s what resonates the most with voters.”

The special election that will determine which major political party controls the Senate comes as Republicans and DFLers are also battling for control of the state House. Democrats currently hold 70 seats to the GOP’s 64 seats in the lower chamber.

A glance at SD45 voting trends

While the state Senate district maps were redrawn for the 2022 election cycle, a precinct-by-precinct analysis of what now constitutes SD45 shows that in 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump earned 22,313 votes, compared to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s 25,820.

While Fowke technically has a head start in focusing on the general election, Johnson Stewart has also had her eye on Morrison’s seat since last fall. She revealed as much in April when she told constituents via social media that she had been preparing another run for office should Morrison win her race for U.S. House in CD3 or resign sooner than that.

Emily Reitan/Emily Reitan for Minnesota Senate

But now Johnson Stewart, who raised more than $20,000 last fall for an eventual state Senate run, has to focus her attention on an Aug. 13 primary against business consultant Emily Reitan, of Mound, and Kyle Meinen, who didn’t list his city of residence on his affidavit of candidacy and listed his private Instagram page in lieu of a campaign website.

“I am so thrilled to have a chance to be back in the Senate again, and to run, and to join my (DFL) colleagues in fighting for everything that we Democrats feel is really important,” Johnson Stewart said in a social media post she shared shortly after filing for office on Monday.

One of Johnson Stewart’s two primary opponents, Emily Reitan, commented Thursday on the news that the United States Supreme Court had unanimously rejected a legal challenge by an organization representing pro-life medical doctors who tried to sue the Food and Drug Administration over availability of the abortion medication mifepristone in light of concerns over the drug’s safety.

“This is great news for women across the country — but we are far from done,” Reitan said in a post she shared on social media. “We need to codify Roe v. Wade into law and safeguard all reproductive rights.”


Hank Long

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.