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Minnesota has two special elections coming up on Tuesday, and as the self-proclaimed Minnesota Legislature expert on DKE, I find it my personal duty to fully report on these elections.

14A: Here are the quotes from my diaries before and after the legislative elections in November.

From the diary on November 1, 2012:
“District 14: Republicans are not going to be pleased with this. Republicans pray and pray that St. Cloud will be diluted among the local Republican areas. That didn't happen. In the Senate Tarryl Clark chose to continue with her feckless carpetbag campaign in MN-8 instead of running for her old seat against freshman John Peterson. Instead, Peterson drew much lower level opposition in the form of businessman/accountant Jerry McCarter. McCarter has raised a fair amount of money for his efforts, but Peterson has raised more. This is not safe for Peterson, but this makes it a lot harder for the DFL to take him out. In 14A, Steven Gottwalt (GOP) is a strong incumbent in a marginal center-right district. This district really does not resemble his current district, even though the lines didn’t change much on a map, where the lines land matter here.  In 14B, King Banaian (yes, that is his REAL name) is facing a tough reelection bid in an unfriendly district. Banaian is facing a young untested opponent, but Zach Dorholt is getting a surprising amount of institutional backing. Baniaian has outraised Dohort, but this is one race where I am cautiously optimistic about for the Democrats, if for no other reason the political leanings of St. Cloud proper, and the fact that the fundraising is not all that lopsided.

Senate: Likely R
House A: Safe R
House B: Tilt D*”

And from the diary on November 9, 2012
“District 14: Republicans are not pleased with this. Republicans pray and pray that St. Cloud will be diluted among the local Republican areas. That didn't happen, and as I suspected, it cost them a seat in 14B, as King Banaian could not hold on in the St. Cloud proper district.  In 14A, Steven Gottwalt (GOP) proved his muscle as an incumbent and survived. In the senate, John Peterson didn’t really get a strong challenger and showed that he really is a weak incumbent, and I expect he will face a much stronger challenger in 2014.

Senate: Likely R
House A: Safe R
House B: Tilt D*
Senate: Pederseon (R) 52.5-47.3
House A: Gottwalt (R) 53.9-45.8
House B: Dorholt (D) 56.2-43.5*”

Steven Gottwalt (R) has resigned his seat, after saying he wasn’t going to resign his seat. He took a job as top legislative lobbyist for a medical company, and tried to play that off as not a conflict of interest. I was not privy to the conversation, but my understanding was that Speaker Paul Thissen got on the phone with him and told him to resign or face expulsion. Anyways, he is in the private sector getting rich now. This seat contains parts of St. Cloud and some immediate surrounding cities, but doesn’t stretch out to the farm land around St. Cloud. Romney won this district 50-48, Klobuchar won it 63-32, and Jim Graves beat Michele Bachmann here 57-42. Amendment 1 (Marriage) failed here 49-51, but Amendment 2  (Voter ID) won 53-47. Overall this is mildly Republican turf, but the right candidates can easily tip the election 1 way or the other. There were no primaries here as they were not necessary, and only three candidates filed for the seat:

Former St. Cloud School Board Member Joanne Dorsher (D)
Dorsher recently served 7 years on the St. Cloud school board, and put up a respectable performance against then-incumbent Steve Gottwalt 46-53 in 2008 for this seat, which was then known as 15A. Dorsher has serious backing with the local DFL, and even Tarryl Clark has crawled out of her hole and has taken a ceremonial role in the campaign. The St. Cloud Times (the only paper in the district) has endorsed her, in spite of the fact that they endorsed Gottwalt and both of the other Republican incumbents in the senate district last fall.

Businesswoman Tama Theis (R)
Theis’s win is another notch in the belt of the tea party giant slayers. Had this gone to a primary, Theis would have been an afterthought, but because it was a convention she beat out St. Cloud City Councilman John Severson for the nod. Theis is a political unknown and has never run for office before. She sits on the board of the local Transportation Advisory Board, but that is the only “political” experience she has. Severson would have been a strong favorite in a general election, but Theis is going into this as an underdog.

Todd McKee (IP)
I would love to give more information on this man’s background, but the only information that anyone has on him is that he is a resident of Waite Park. The media has not been able to track the guy down to get any information. He did participate in the debate Friday February 8th, but just made mild overtures at being nonpartisan.
Overall, given the partisan lean of the district it should favor Theis, but based on the relative strength of Dorsher vs. Theis, I am giving Dorsher a definitive edge here, and Give her about a 75% change of winning, in spite of the district’s lean.

Rating: Likely D.

19A: Here are the quotes from my diaries before and after the legislative elections in November.

From the diary on November 1, 2012:
“District 19: This is a district the Republicans tried to eliminate. The courts didn't slice and dice, and left Mankato with representation. All 3 incumbents are DFLers, and all 3 were elected at the same time in 2006 and have been reelected with little difficulty since. I was hoping that Republicans would pump some money into these races to deplete their limited resources, but alas, Senator Sheran and Representative Morrow didn’t even draw token Republican opponents. And Representative Brynaert drew a Some Dude opponent in the Mankato-proper district. Brynaert has an F rating from the NRA, and her opponent, Thad Shunkwiler has an A- rating. Yet the NRA did not endorse Shunkwiler. That goes to shower you what his chances are.

Senate: Safe D
House A:  Safe D
House B:  Safe D”

And from the diary on November 9, 2012
“District 19: This is Mankato and the surrounding areas, and it is quite liberal for an outstate district. Republicans didn’t even put up candidates against Senator Sheran or Representative Morrow, and didn’t seriously contest Brynaert’s district either.

Senate: Safe D
House A:  Safe D
House B:  Safe D
Senate: Sheran (D) Unopposed
House A:  Morrow (D) Unopposed
House B:  Brynaert (D) 63.9-35.8”

Tony Morrow (D) has resigned his seat as he has moved out of the state to take a job as a partner in some law firm in Chicago. The area around Mankato leans DFL at the presidential level, with Obama winning it 52-45, but really is much more Democratic down ballot, as evidenced by the legislative results, as well as the fact Klobuchar won 67-28, which was higher than her statewide margin, and Tim Walz defeating Al Quist 63-37. This is the same Al Quist running for this seat now, more on him later.  Amendment 1 (Marriage) failed here 47-53, and Amendment 2 (Voter ID) going down by a wider margin on the backs of college students that would be directly affected by this amendment 42-58. The following candidates will appear on the ballot on Tuesday.

Minnesota State University – Mankato Professor Clark Johnson (D)
Johnson ran for the state legislature way back in 1984, a fact that I personally didn’t know until last week in spite of having worked with him on the campaign trail before. Back then, SE Minnesota was strongly Republican turf, and he got trounced in the general election. He has been a campaign expert/worker in Minnesota and North Dakota for 40 years. Because of the timing of the DFL nominating convention, there was a beauty contest of a primary held, but since all four of the candidates had agreed to abide by the endorsement, it was simply a formality and he won the primary easily.

Former State Representative, former primary candidate for governor (1994), and former general election candidate for MN-1 (2012) Al Quist (R)
Everyone in Minnesota politics knows who Al Quist is. He was a tea partier before the tea party was a thing, when he challenged incumbent governor Arne Carlson from the right in the 1994 GOP primary. Since then he has been a vocal conservative activist, and tried to make a political comeback last year challenging incumbent Congressman Tim Walz for MN-1. As mentioned above, Quist got beat really decisively in this district, by a greater margin than he lost MN-1 as a whole. Quist brings with him a number of loyal supporters, and campaign resources with him.

Agricultural Businessman and Author Tim Gieseke (IP)
The Independence Party is putting more effort into the candidacy of Tim Gieseke than into their candidate in MN-14. Former Congressman Tom Horner (DFL/IP) is out campaigning for him as a surrogate, and he should be able to pull 10%+ of the vote in this district.

Overall, this district’s lean is fairly decisively Democratic, but with the presence of a strong Independence Candidate, a well-known if not well liked Republican candidate, and the quirky dynamics of a special election mean strange things can happen. But Johnson SHOULD win this race

Rating: Likely D


Who wins?

83%26 votes
6%2 votes
6%2 votes
3%1 votes

| 31 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hope you are right (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slothlax, atdnext

    I really do not know anything about the candidates in 14A. Everything being equal this district should lean Republican but on paper Dorsher (D) looks like a stronger candidate than Theis (R) so maybe this could be a Dem pickup.

    19A scares me. This should be a safe Democratic seat but the Quist crazies while not great in number will turn out to vote. Will the Dem leaning college kids at Gustavus Adolphus?  I hope i am wrong on this one but I smell an upset.  

    •  It isn't just Gustavus (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc, atdnext

      It's also some of the Mankato State kids (I refuse to call it Minnesota State) live there, even though the school itself is in 14B.  Although with a Horner-backed candidate, this could be tricky. Head-to-head I would take Johnson over Quist, as Quist is simply not liked, and couldn't even pull 40% in his home house district 3 months ago. No, Johnson isn't Walz, but Quist is still Quist. My guess is that Johnson wins something like 45-40.

      •  I attended Mankato State... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OGGoldy, atdnext

        ... back in the day and while there will be some MSU students who live off campus in 19A the vast majority would be in 19B.

        Low turnout elections scare me and while Quist is a horrible fit for the district he will get his followers out. Hope I'm wrong.

        BTW I don't remember him but I may have voted against Johnson when he ran in 1984. I was going to school in Mankato and back then considered myself a Republican (was young and foolish)

        •  I am not getting my undies in a bunch here (4+ / 0-)

          Worst case scenario, the DFL loses the seat for a year and a half, and Quist is promptly voted out in 2014, because he doesn't stand a chance in a general election situation. It doesn't really damage our majorities meaningfully, so if we lose it, it's not the end of the world. But I have worked with Johnson on the campaign trail, and I trust that he and his staff are running a good campaign in such a short timeframe.

          •  Clark (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            When did you work with Clark? I was an organizer in the district in 2008 and Clark was the best volunteer I had. That guy loves knocking doors, which is a great feature in a candidate.

            I really don't see us losing this. Quist is actually motivating Democrats to vote for him. There is a lot of work being done in district and from St. Paul with car loads of canvassers going down all the time. Also, I can guarantee you that Clark and our volunteers are outworking Quist and his by leaps and bounds. Also, if you have a conversation with Clark and you aren't a die-hard Republican, he'll probably win you over.

            Tonight there is a big event at Gustavus Adolphus College (my alma mater) with Governor Dayton and Congressman Walz stumping for Johnson. Hopefully that will help turn out students.

            As for 14A, I'm cautiously optimistic. If I had to assign it one way or the other, I'd maybe say Tilt D at this point. If anything 14A is getting more attention than 19A because of the desire to flip another seat (and like you said, Quist would never win a general even if he somehow won the special).

            •  I spent some time down there in 06 (0+ / 0-)

              I was doing work for the Klobuchar campaign at the time around Mankato State, and Dolan was THE guy that coordinated everything for volunteers in that part of the world. Honestly, I didn't think Walz had a snowball's chance in hell that year, so I really didn't do much canvassing for him at all.

              I haven't heard much on the ground from Mankato, as the southern part of the state is far and away my weakest area for knowledge and contacts. The word in St. Cloud is encouraging so far, but Theis has money coming in by the truckload, and will outraise Dorsher. Fortunately the compressed timeframe means that money matters less, and volunteers matter more. I think this is turning into  regional battle between southern St. Cloud and St. Augusta. Its just which city can turn out more voters, because Dorsher and The is will win those municipalities 60-40 respectively.

              •  19A (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                19A is one of the districts I am most familiar with, having gone to college in St. Peter and organizing the old SD23. I helped the House hire an organizer there for this special and my little sister is organizing the campus, so I hear quite a bit. I feel pretty good about it. As you said, on the local level the district is more Democratic so I think it should be fine.

                I was at GAC in 2006, running the dems there. Maybe we ran across each other at some point. I did a lot of work with the organizers for Sheran and Morrow.

      •  In regards to Quist's performance (0+ / 0-)

        in 19A in November, remember, Tim Walz claims Mankato home as well.

  •  Tea Party sabotages the GOP again? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Sounds like that's the deal in 14A.  BTW, can you explain a bit about the whole A/B thing.  Are they two different districts or are there two reps per district or what?

    The beginning of the diary could use a bit more partisan identification, BTW.  For those who don't know the players it is kind of necessary.  Banaian, for example, is identified as the incumbent, but not as a Republican.  I know it was cribbed from a previous diary, but it would help.

    There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

    by slothlax on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 01:28:36 PM PST

  •  Ah, Legislature special elections. (0+ / 0-)

    Sometimes, I miss them. (Other times, not so much.) Nevada law requires the County Commission fill a NVLeg vacancy by appointing someone from the same district and party.

    So these are the first MNLeg vacancies of 2013. How many more special elections are you expecting this year?

    •  There are usually 2-3 per year (0+ / 0-)

      I would be surprised if there were any more special elections while the legislature is in session (ends in May) but there may be a resignation or two during the second half of the year, so there would be special elections in November.

  •  Nice post! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If anyone is interested in Maps, I wrote these earlier in the week and they contain google maps with district overlays:

  •  The DFL still looks strong in MN (0+ / 0-)

    I think I saw an article in Minn Post that said that the DFL has won 13 of the last 17 special elections.  In the past few years we have had better data and more effective organization.  Often we've had better candidates.

    It also helps that we have popular statewide leaders (Dayton, Klobuchar, Franken).

    I don't know these candidates at all but they seem pretty good and Quist is a disaster - maybe this will be his last race?

    Nice OGGoldy.

    •  I imagine (0+ / 0-)

      A good portion of those special elections were in Democratic seats though. So the numbers may be skewed because holding a seat in Minneapolis or Hibbing in a special election is not exactly a difficult thing for a Democrat to do.

      That being said, the DFL is a well oiled machine, at least when outside interests keep their noses and wallets out of it.

       As for Quist, its hard to say if he will hang it up or not. The dude has an ego the size of the Mississippi.

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