The legislative primary elections on the GOP side yielded few surprises, with most contests ending with results that were expected by most #mnleg observers. After the majority of the votes were counted, Republicans were left with strong candidates for the November elections that will decide control of the House and Senate.
In the two most high profile races on the House side, Andrew Myers easily dispatched a challenge from former Ron Paul staffer Marianne Stebbins, and Erik Mortenson defeated former Representative Bob Loonan by roughly the same margin as the 2018 contest. Per House GOP spox Andrew Wagner, no challenger came within 40 points of defeating an incumbent member. (link to tweet)
And on the Senate side, Julia Coleman won with big margins against Victoria Mayor Tom Funk, cementing her place as a leader of the next generation of Republicans in St. Paul.
Without any further ado, let’s take a look at the results from last night.
Despite serious outside spending supporting Marianne Stebbins, Minnetonka Beach City Councilman Andrew Myers won with huge margins, defeating Stebbins 70.72% to 29.28%. This gives Republicans a strong candidate who has a very good chance to flip this seat in November. Watch for this seat to be one of the top races for outside spending in the fall. Politics.MN rates this race as a Toss-Up.
In what ended up being a very similar rematch to the 2018 contest, Erik Mortenson defeated former Representative Bob Loonan 55.08% to 44.92%. Mortenson benefited from outside help and a very dedicated team of activists on the ground that helped him blanket Shakopee from the middle of spring through election day.
This is a race that Republicans can win back in November, and Mortenson will benefit from having the President on the ballot to boost turnout for the GOP. In 2018, Mortenson narrowly lost to Brad Tabke in a 51.53% to 48.07% margin. One element to watch is that this time around the Legalize Marijuana Now candidate will likely pull votes from Tabke, making Mortenson’s path to victory easier than in 2018. Politics.MN rates this race as a Toss-Up.
The Senate race in Carver County was easily the most high-profile legislative primary of 2020. Chanhassen City Councilwoman Julia Coleman and Victoria Mayor Tom Funk battled to a no endorsement at the SD47 endorsing convention earlier this summer, and the primary did not disappoint political observers.
There were a string of last minute endorsements in this race on both sides, including State Representative Jim Nash endorsing Coleman, and former Minority Leader and candidate for Governor Marty Seifert endorsing Funk.
In the end, though, Coleman defeated Funk with large margins, winning 62.95% to 37.05%. Republicans are excited about the prospect of Coleman joining their ranks, as she represents exactly what the party needs to continue to grow their ranks among suburban women and younger voters. Coleman will be the face of the next generation of Republican leaders at the capitol. Politics.MN rates this contest as Likely Republican.
With longtime legislator Linda Runbeck retiring unexpectedly this spring, there was a flurry of interest in running for the seat at the filing deadline. Donald Raleigh was endorsed at the unusual post filing deadline 38A convention, and he handily won the primary last night. This is a safe Republican district, and Politics.MN rates this seat as Solid Republican.
Longtime Representative Dan Fabian announced his retirement at the end of the legislative session this year. Turkey Farmer John Burkel handily won the endorsement back in May, and he cruised to victory on primary night, easily toppling David Lion and Brian Meehan. Burkel won with over 90% of the vote, and is likely to represent the heavily Republican district for a long time. Politics.MN rates this race as Solid Republican.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka easily trounced his primary challenger Richard Dahl on Tuesday night. The reason for Dahl entering the race was his anger at the COVID dirven lockdown situation in Minnesota. Gazelka is very popular in this deeply Republican district, and Politics.MN gives this seat a rating of Solid Republican.
Similar to Majority Leader Gazelka, Senator Carrie Ruud in the Brainerd Lakes area had a primary challenger in local activist Shaun Christian Hansen that was based on anger over the COVID shutdowns. Ruud won with over 80% of the vote, and will continue to do so as long as she desires to serve at the capitol. Politics.MN rates this seat as Solid Republican.
The retirement of political powerhouse Bob Gunther led to a highly competitive race for the MNGOP endorsement in House District 23A. Elmore Mayor and Army Captain Bjorn Olson came out victorious after over five rounds of balloting in the endorsement. Martin County native Michael Sukalski entered the primary against Olson, and was initially thought to have somewhat of an advantage due to strong family ties to the area.
But after months of retail politics and hard work at the doors, Olson won on Tuesday night with 57.52% of the vote, with Sukalsi earning 42.48%. Olson will be elected in November, and will be another promising young voice for Republicans at the capitol. Politics.MN rates this race as Solid Republican.
House Republican Leader Kurt Daudt won big over his primary challenger, earning over 85% of the vote. Daudt continues to easily put down endorsement and primary challengers cycle after cycle, and it’s worth wondering when those who seek to unseat him will give up. Politics.MN rates this seat as Solid Republican.
The race in 23B was the best example of Red-on-Red violence in the Minnesota State House. NHRCC member Jeremy Munson drew a challenger from Yvonne Simon at the last minute. Despite lots of drama erupting on social media and several articles in Alpha News, Munson prevailed in a big way, winning with 79% of the vote. Politics.MN rates this seat as Solid Republican.
The most interesting news in legislative primaries came from the DFL on primary night, with several longtime politicians going down to progressive newcomers. Stay tuned for an article covering the brewing DFL Civil War.
As mentioned previously, no challengers came within 40 points of defeating an incumbent member on primary night, and members such as Anne Neu, Paul Torkelson, and Shane Mekeland coasted to easy victories.
In what is sure to be one of the most closely watched general election battles in the House, former Representative Pam Myhra won her primary with over 90% of the vote, setting up a showdown with DFLer Jessica Hanson.
When the majority of the votes were counted, Republicans got strong candidates in the majority of the swing districts that will decide control of the House and Senate in November.
Thanks for reading our coverage of the GOP #mnleg primaries, and check back tomorrow morning for our article covering the brewing DFL Civil War!