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DFL wins full control of Minnesota government

With control of the two legislative chambers and the governor’s office, DFL lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz will be able to take more decisive action on policy priorities as they will no longer have to make major compromises with Senate Republicans. That could include increasing funding for education, the creation of a paid family leave program, and the legalization of recreational marijuana.

FSA Minnesota Capitol 2019
Minnesota Capitol
Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — After an expected “red wave” failed to deliver Republicans the victories they hoped for in races across the U.S. on Election Day, Minnesota Democrats now control the Senate, House and governor’s office.

Unofficial election results Wednesday, Nov. 9, show Republicans lost their thin majority in the Minnesota Senate, where the Democrats now appear poised to lead the chamber 34-33. Meanwhile, Democrats appear to have maintained their majority in the House, where they have 70 seats to the Republicans’ 64. If the unofficial results hold, it will mean the end of six years of GOP control of the Senate. The DFL last held full control of state government in 2013-2014.

With control of the two legislative chambers and the governor’s office, DFL lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz will be able to take more decisive action on policy priorities as they will no longer have to make major compromises with Senate Republicans. That could include increasing funding for education, creating a paid family leave program, and the legalization of recreational marijuana.

“We have seen a lot of work that has been left behind, a lot of Minnesotans and a lot of families being left behind and we have an opportunity right now to change that with a governor, a house and a senate that will work together,” outgoing Senate Minority Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday.

melisa lopez franzen.jpg
Sen. Melisa Lopez Franzen, DFL-Edina

Lopez Franzen, an Edina DFLer elected in 2012 who did not seek reelection after 2022 redistricting paired her in the same district with another DFL incumbent, credited strong candidates as well as an aggressive ground game for the DFL’s success. Legislative campaigns knocked on more than half a million doors in the leadup to the election, she said. But she also said abortion rights and Senate Republicans' unwillingness to compromise on a crime plan contributed as well.

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Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller conceded the race to the Senate DFL Wednesday morning.

“While it does not look like Senate Republicans will maintain control of the Senate, we will continue to fight for keeping life affordable for working Minnesotans and seniors, safer communities and support for law enforcement, and more opportunities for students to be successful in the classroom and beyond,” he said. “Thank you to everyone who ran for public office, and congratulations to all who were successful."

Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, just after midnight on Monday, May 23, 2022, speaks to reporters at the Capitol after the legislative session closed out without major deals coming across the finish line.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

The 2022 session ended with a historic $9.3 billion budget surplus left on the table after Gov. Tim Walz, the DFL-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate could not reach a deal on how to use the extra funds for tax cuts, public safety and education. Lawmakers also failed to pass a public projects borrowing bill as they traditionally do during even-numbered years.

Lopez Franzen, who is serving the final months of her term, said passing a borrowing bill and unlocking matching federal funds for Minnesota infrastructure projects should be one of the top priorities at the start of the year.

No red wave

The loss of the Minnesota Senate is just one defeat Republicans suffered on a disappointing election night. Typically, the party of the president is at a disadvantage in midterm elections, and with high inflation and Democratic President Joe Biden’s low approval rating, many expected a red wave.

Instead, Minnesota Democrats kept control of all four state constitutional offices — governor, attorney general, secretary of state and auditor — and took back the Senate. No Republican has won statewide office since 2006, when Gov. Tim Pawlenty was elected to his second four-year term. No red wave materialized nationally either, despite favorable projections for Republicans.

While most polls indicated DFL Gov. Walz would beat Republican challenger Scott Jensen in the general election, which party would control the Legislature starting in January 2023 was closer to a tossup ahead of Election Day.

All 201 Senate and House seats were up for election following the introduction of new legislative district maps in 2022. The battle for the Legislature largely centered on Twin Cities metro suburbs, mid-sized regional cities like Rochester and St. Cloud, and northeast Minnesota’s Iron Range, a traditional DFL stronghold that has shifted toward Republicans in recent elections.

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While it’s all but certain that Democrats will hold on to the House, it’s not clear what the final composition of the Legislature will be this January. Two House races in northeast Minnesota where Republicans beat DFL lawmakers by just over 30 votes qualify for recounts.

Minnesota has typically had a divided government for the last three decades, with the exception of 2013-2014. One-party control of the Senate, House and governor’s office — known as a trifecta — is increasingly the norm in state governments.

As of 2022, Minnesota and Virginia were the only states in the U.S. where the legislature is divided between the two parties, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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