ST. PAUL — Minnesota voters later this year could shuffle the power structure at the state Capitol, breaking a Democratic hold on Minnesota's executive offices.

Ahead of the 2022 mid-term election, Republican candidates have lined up to take on two top Democratic-Farmer-Labor officeholders at the Capitol and more are expected to file in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Democrats in several of those positions have said they'll again launch bids to hold their seats and are optimistic about their chances to win over voters.

In the months ahead, candidates will have to win over their respective political parties and then primary voters to advance to the general election ballot in November. Here's a look at the key dates to watch and what's on the line this year.

Which statewide offices are on the ballot?

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Candidates vying for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor will face off this year, along with state Supreme Court judges and local officeholders.

Arguably the most-watched race will be between Gov. Tim Walz, a first-term Democrat, and a broad field of Republican hopefuls aiming to unseat him. GOP challengers have also thrown their hats into the ring to unseat Democratic-Farmer-Labor Attorney General Keith Ellison.

The state’s eight U.S. House seats and all 201 state legislative seats will also be on the ballot this year, but decisions around redrawing the state’s political maps could determine which candidates run, retire or move ahead of Election Day.

Lawmakers and the courts will determine how the state’s political districts change ahead of the next election. They’re still at work on that effort now.

Who is running?

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz visits the fire station Thursday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Dilworth to talk about the bonding bill that could help finance its replacement.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz visits the fire station Thursday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Dilworth to talk about the bonding bill that could help finance its replacement. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan have announced their bid for reelection and have yet to face a challenge from the Democratic Party. But several Republicans have said they’ll seek the GOP nomination to challenge them later this year.

State Sens. Michelle Benson and Paul Gazelka, former Sen. Scott Jensen, Lexington, Minnesota Mayor Mike Murphy, Dermatologist Neil Shah and long-time GOP candidate Bob Carney Jr. have all entered the race for the Republican endorsement. And, so far, Jensen has drummed up the greatest advantage in growing his public profile since he entered the field first and has become a national figure in pushing back against COVID-19 restrictions.

Republicans Michelle Benson, left, Neil Shah, Paul Gazelka, Mike Murphy and Scott Jensen took part in a gubernatorial candidates' forum in Wayzata, Minnesota, on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.
Tim Pugmire / MPR News
Republicans Michelle Benson, left, Neil Shah, Paul Gazelka, Mike Murphy and Scott Jensen took part in a gubernatorial candidates' forum in Wayzata, Minnesota, on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. Tim Pugmire / MPR News

Early Republican candidate debates have featured heavy blowback against the Walz administration, and in particular against the governor’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Candidates have also attempted to set themselves apart in terms of how they’d handle violent crime in the state, change Minnesota’s tax codes and advance other GOP priorities.

Another Republican, former 3rd Congressional District hopeful Kendall Quall, is also widely expected to announce his bid for the Republican endorsement in the coming days.

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Attorney General Keith Ellison, a Democrat, has yet to face a DFL challenge but has also inspired a swell of Republican opponents, including former adversary Doug Wardlow. Ellison bested Wardlow in 2018 to win his first term in the office after a bruising campaign.

Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington (left) and Attorney General Keith Ellison co-chaired a statewide working group that recently made recommendations aimed at reducing fatal police encounters. The panel, which included St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin, met at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in October. (File / News Tribune)
Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington (left) and Attorney General Keith Ellison co-chaired a statewide working group that recently made recommendations aimed at reducing fatal police encounters. The panel, which included St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin, met at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in October. (File / News Tribune)

Business lawyer and first-time candidate Jim Schultz, former state lawmakers Dennis Smith and criminal defense attorney Lynne Torgerson have also announced that they’ll seek the party’s endorsement.

Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, has not yet said if he’ll seek reelection, but has drawn two Republican opponents, so far, in Kelly Jahner-Byrne and Kim Crockett.

Crockett was suspended in 2019 from the conservative think tank Center for the American Experiment after making racist comments about Somali-Americans in St. Cloud, according to the Star Tribune. Crockett also has questioned the results of the 2020 election. She has said her campaign will focus on election integrity.

Jahner-Byrne, a small business owner and former Mrs. Minnesota, has said her campaign will also focus on election integrity.

Finally, State Auditor Julie Blaha has announced that she’ll seek reelection this year and has yet to face a challenge from within the DFL nor from the GOP.

What are the dates you need to know?

  • JAN. 31: Minnesota lawmakers return to St. Paul for the 2022 legislative session. The election will be front and center at the Capitol as state lawmakers attempt to make a case for themselves as candidates or against others with floor speeches, news conferences and bill introductions.
  • FEB. 1: Precinct caucusing events take place around the state: Local political party members choose the delegates that will represent them and vote to endorse candidates at partisan conventions later in the year.
  • MAY 13 and 14: Minnesota Republican Party Endorsing Convention: GOP delegates will meet to choose their party's endorsed candidates moving into the primary election.
  • MAY 20-22: Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Endorsing Convention: DFL delegates will choose their party's endorsed candidates moving into the primary election.
  • MAY 31: Candidate filing deadline
  • AUG. 9: Minnesota primary election
  • NOV. 8: Election Day

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to include another candidate running for Secretary of State.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com