Minnesota is experiencing a fairly standard number of legislative district primaries for a Presidential year. Most of these would be classified as nominal primaries, so we will run through some of the more high profile and contested ones here.
All of these primaries feature a candidate who is endorsed by the Minnesota Republican Party through their convention process earlier this year (with one exception- the SD47 Senate primary). House primaries are largely defined by the ongoing acrimonious split between the Minnesota House Caucus (HRCC) and the New House Caucus (NHRCC) breakout group. A number of these primaries (challenges against HRCC leadership like Daudt and Neu from NHRCC affiliated candidates and challenges against NHRCC members like Munson) are centered around this split.
As a rule of thumb, in Minnesota, Republican endorsed candidates usually win their primaries. Most, if not all, MNGOP endorsed candidates will win their primary elections, if recent election cycles are any guide.
After the dust settles on Tuesday night (or longer, depending on the new COVID-related absentee voting rules…), Republicans will move on to a pitched battle to hold their majority in the State Senate and retake their majority in the State House.
MNGOP pick Andrew Myers is facing a surprisingly well-funded challenge from libertarian warlord Marianne Stebbins in 33B, which was a longtime Republican stronghold until the blue wave of 2018. Myers has strong conservative credentials and institutional support, while Stebbins has rallied the remnants of the 2012 Ron Paul for President movement, which she led. This race has seen a lot of independent expenditures, with the majority appearing to be against Myers and boosting Stebbins from libertian leaning outside groups. Many observers see this as a district that will make or break House Republicans chances to win back the majority in November. Many observers give a slight edge to Myers, but this one could go either way.
This race is a brutal rematch of the 2018 primary that saw Representative Bob Loonan lose to libertarian leaning challenger Erik Mortenson, who would later narrowly lose the general election to Brad Tabke. This time, neither candidate has the party endorsement, which has made this race a true free for all with outside groups coming in for both candidates with air support. This race is an example of the proxy between House Leadership and the New Republican caucus. Out of all the primaries we’re covering, this is one of the true toss ups.
The free-for-all in Carver county is the highest profile and most competitive GOP primary for the Senate this season. This showdown between Victoria Mayor Thomas Funk and Chanhassen City Councilwoman Julia Coleman drew a hung convention at the virtual convention this Spring- leaving this as the only contested State Senate primary without an MNGOP endorsement.
Traditional wisdom has seen Coleman showing more institutional support- endorsements from higher profile State Representatives like Rep. Jim Nash in the district and a vocal portion of the GOP Senate caucus. But recently Funk has shown more signs of life, issuing a viral video decrying the nationally televised riots in Minneapolis and becoming more active on social media.
This race will be decided by a lot of what’s not visible: direct mail, text messaging, targeted digital, and other under-the-radar voter contact methods that aren’t outwardly visible. Worth noting that Carver gets redder the farther west you go from Chanhassen and the metro suburbs- watch Waconia, Watertown, and the western townships if the 2 candidates split the eastern cities.
On the last day of filing, longtime legislator Linda Runbeck announced that she would retire, which led to a rush of filings from multiple candidates in the district. Ultimately, Donald Raleigh prevailed in the snap endorsement convention over Doug Malsom. Also on the ballot is prominent conservative activist Kelly Gunderson, though she suspended her campaign earlier this summer. This race has flown under the radar from most observers, and Raleigh is seen as the heavy favorite with the MNGOP backing.
This is an unusual 3 way contest between MNGOP endorsed Turkey Farmer John Burkel, David Lion, & Brian Meehan for the state house candidate being vacated by longtime Republican Rep. Dan Fabian. Located in the northwestern-most portion of the state, this race has had a low tempo of coverage, but taking place in the heavily contested 7th Congressional District will be a factor.
State Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has drawn a primary challenger in his north-central Minnesota district- Richard Dahl. This is one of several COVID-lockdown based Quixotic challenges, notable largely because of the rage about lockdowns that candidates like Dahl represent. There’s an established playbook of fighting off candidacies like these (see SD10 as well) where all the relevant groups lock arms to help secure victory and Gazelka seems to be following it closely.
Incumbent Senator Carrie Ruud in the Brainerd Lakes area has drawn a challenger in local activist Shaun Christian Hansen. The challenge is purely based on rage over Democratic Governor Tim Walz’s shutdown order. There’s a lot of backstory to this- Hansen is a relation of GOP attorney and prolific Twitter user Nathan Hansen, and his candidacy is explicitly based on opposing COVID lockdowns. This challenge appears to be more based on generalized angst and impulsiveness than anything direct.
Ruud has drawn endorsements from the MNGOP and Minnesota Chamber of Commerce to run again for this solidly Republican seat.
HD23A has seen significant HRCC support for MNGOP endorsed candidate Bjorn Olson, running against Michael Sukalski. Notable for the intersection with Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, Olson’s campaign has been powered by joint appearances with Congressman Jim Hagedorn, as well as HRCC leadership. Chatter says that this race is targeted because of the uncertainty in the vacuum left by the departure of longtime GOP Rep. Bob Gunther. Spanning a massive portion of the Iowa-Minnesota border, anything is possible with this many rural communities in play.
This is a weird one, and the other example of legislative leadership being a target. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (former House Speaker) has drawn a primary challenge from Beau Hullermann, who Daudt rear ended and allegedly knocked unconscious on the road in the district in 2016. From the outside this appears to be a big part of the ongoing House infighting on the GOP side, but strangely this may be more of another long running local feud played out on the primary ballot. Defending Daudt in this race is the highest priority of the active HRCC political apparatus, so unless Hullermann is running a super secret direct mail campaign it’s Daudt’s to lose.
This primary is the best example of the Red-on-Red violence going on in the Minnesota State House. NHRCC member Jeremy Munson has drawn a last minute filing challenger in Yvonne Simon. Munson has publicly and privately butted heads with Daudt, and Simon’s last-second filing was seen by many as a move emanating from Daudt and HRCC corners. Simon is a former staffer for the Minnesota Farm Bureau and after her filing, Munson characterized it to a liberal blog in this way- “I fear this primary is more in response to me shining the light of transparency on lobbyists and special interest groups in St Paul than it is on my representation of the district.”
Beating Munson would be quite an upset for Daudt and the HRCC as Munson has become quite a bete noire for Daudt in the legislature after Munson’s win in a upset for the seat in a special election in early 2018, but Munson has proved durable to HRCC challenges so far.
This article covers some of the highlights but there’s so much to watch on Minnesota primary night. Daudt ally Anne Neu is facing a primary challenge in 32B, HRCC/and the fur is flying in two Hennepin County Commissioner Districts (including the Red District 7 as gubernatorial nominee Jeff Johnson exits).
Representative Shane Mekeland faces a primary challenge from longtime activist John Ulrich in the southern part of the 6th Congressional District. Mekeland easily defeated Ulrich for the MNGOP endorsement earlier this year, and is expected to prevail with a solid margin of victory on Tuesday. Longtime Representative Paul Torkelson faces a primary challenge from conservative activist Tamara Houle. Torkelson is also expected to prevail with a large margin of victory.
In a race that will see little primary coverage but will be highly contested in November, Pam Myhra is facing off against a weak primary challenger, and is expected to face off against former New Mexico resident Basil Martin in one of the most competitive swing districts in the fall.
We will also be tracking competitive DFL primaries where the sitting incumbents lost their respective endorsements from far-left challengers in the spring. In Minneapolis, Senator Jeff Hayden and Representative Ray Dehn are both facing primary challenges from far left opponents, and in Duluth Iron Range DFLer Erik Simonson is trying to fend off a challenge from an environmentalist who won the party’s endorsement.
Stay tuned to Politics.MN for more coverage in real time!