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Massive change coming to Minnesota thanks to the busiest ballot in 40 years

Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump here by 1.5 points, even though 3rd Party candidates garnered nearly 9% of the vote. Minnesota may look “liberal”, but there is work to do in 2018.

Most Impactful Investments

Get out the Vote Leverage


The top priorities in Minnesota:

1.    Winning the Governor's race to prevent Republicans from controlling the re-districting process;

2.    Win or hold targeted Congressional races in a state that has supported the Democratic candidate for President in every year since 1984;

3.    Win control of the State Senate (Democrat Joe Perske in SD-13) with a victory in a one-seat special election on Nov. 8.;

4.    Increase voter turnout among young people and minorities in a year with numerous electoral opportunities for Democrats.

Minnesota’s ballot hasn’t been this crowded in 40 years, creating a unique opportunity to maximize political investments across multiple races. In 2018, voters will fill two U.S. Senate seats, every statewide constitutional office (including Governor), and majority control of both the State House and State Senate.

Minnesota is likely to play an important role in deciding the makeup of the next Congress, with competitive races in at least 5 of the state’s 8 districts. All five of these seats are winnable for Democrats and will be critical in determining the next majority in the House of Representatives. Donald Trump won 5 Minnesota’s Congressional districts in 2016 despite losing the statewide vote to Hillary Clinton.

The Governor and the state legislature handle redistricting in Minnesota, but a history of one-party control in the legislature means that it is imperative that Democrats maintain control of the Governor’s office. The 2018 election will largely determine the playing field in Minnesota for the next decade. Democrats must retain the office of Governor as a buffer against a Republican-controlled legislature dominating the next redistricting process.

In the State Senate, a single vacancy election in SD-13 will break a current partisan deadlock one way or the other. Democrats can also chip away at recapturing 11 seats in the State House to gain majority control before the next round of redistricting in 2022.

Investing in organizations that work to increase voter turnout -- particularly among young and minority voters – could prove to be exponentially more impactful in Minnesota because so many important races are up for grabs at one time.

Political landscape

Minnesota has one of the latest Primary Elections in the United States (August 14).  There is only one media market covering the majority of the state, so advertising expenses can be substantial – particularly in a year in which so many high-profile offices are being contested.

Minnesota has the longest current unbroken streak in the country of voting for the Democratic Presidential candidate (Donald Trump came close to carrying the state in 2016, losing to Hillary Clinton by less than two points). Minnesota also consistently ranks among the states with the highest voter turnout, though younger and minority voters tend to lag in mid-term elections.

Incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) is not running for a third term, making the state’s top office an open seat in 2018. The frontrunner on the Republican side is former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whose re-election in 2006 marked the last time a Republican candidate was elected Governor in Minnesota. Pawlenty made a bid for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2012 and continues to hold national ambitions, though a loss in 2018 would likely put an end to those aspirations. Health care is also a top issue in Minnesota, and a Democratic Governor will keep the state as an important check on national Republican efforts to dismantle Obamacare.

Republican interference with Obamacare has drastically increased costs for health care and prescription drugs in Minnesota; health care access and affordability is expected to be a top issue in the General Election. Other key issues in 2018 involve immigration reform and making improvements to Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure.

*Note: The Democratic Party in Minnesota is labeled “DFL,” which stands for “Democratic-Farmer-Labor” in a nod to the origins of the party. The DFL is affiliated with the U.S. Democratic Party. Democratic candidates on the ballot in Minnesota are followed by the “DFL” acronym instead of the more common “D.” For example: Governor Mark Dayton (DFL). 


Redistricting in Minnesota is intended to be decided by the state legislature and the Governor, but a history of one-party control has normally resulted in maps being finalized by the courts. Democrats are in the minority in the State House but need to win only one seat in order to gain control of the State Senate.  Electing a Democratic Governor provides a buffer against Republican gerrymandering.

Follow the $$

Minnesota is known for its open and transparent campaign finance rules on state offices. Candidates are limited in the amount of money they can raise from individuals and for their campaigns overall; public financing is tied to a candidate’s ability to stick to these rules. As a result of these campaign finance limits, outside spending plays an outsized role in Minnesota, particularly in relation to high-cost activities like television advertising.

Individual limits for campaigns in Minnesota are as follows:

- Governor: $4,000

- Secretary of State & State Auditor: $2,000

- State Senate: $1,000

- State House: $1,000


Minnesota caps spending limits for candidates that sign a public subsidy agreement (and most candidates do). Approximate spending limits in 2018 are:

- Governor: $4.2 million to $5 million

- Secretary of State & State Auditor: $480,000-576,000

- State Senate: $32,000-36,000

- State House: $72,000-86,000


Full details available HERE.


Outside Spending

With relatively low limits on donations and total expenditures for campaigns, outside spending in Minnesota is key to winning in November. For example, it is unlikely that control of the State Senate will be decided by total candidate expenditures of $36,000. With so many high-profile races on the ballot in November, outside spending in Minnesota could do more to tip the balance of political power than in any other state. Outside spending often has a trickle-down effect, which in Minnesota provides a rare opportunity to impact every top statewide race at once.

US House Seats

Minnesota will play a significant role in determining which party controls the House of Representatives in 2019. At least 5 of Minnesota’s 8 Congressional seats could change hands this cycle. 

- MN-1 (Open Seat): This seat has been represented by a Democrat since 2006, and Republicans are targeting the district as a top pick up opportunity in 2018. This is a true swing district that Democrats must defend; Barack Obama won here in 2012 by a two-point margin, but Donald Trump carried the district comfortably in 2016 (53-38).

- MN-2 (Republican): Republican Jason Lewis, a former right-wing radio host, was first elected in 2016 and is a top national target for Democrats in 2018. The General Election will be a rematch between Lewis and Democrat Angie Craig in a district that is a poor ideological match for a right-wing Republican incumbent. Lewis has been reeling from new revelations about sexist and racist comments, including lamenting that women can’t be called “sluts” anymore and claims of a coming “racial war” that he predicts will be the result of violent attacks against white Americans.

- MN-3 (Republican): Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen has held this seat since 2008 but has a strong challenger in Democrat Dean Phillips, who has performed well in early polling matchups. Paulsen was first elected as a “moderate” Republican but has become more conservative as a reflection of the general rightward trend of the national Republican Party. His conservative shift is a poor fit for a district that supported the Democratic Presidential candidate in 2016 (51-41), 2012 (50-49), and 2008 (52-46).

- MN-7: (Democrat): This is one of 13 Democratic-held districts that backed Donald Trump in 2016 (62-31), but incumbent Democrat Collin Peterson has represented MN-7 since 1990 and is favored to win re-election. This is a seat that Democrats must defend in order to retake the House Majority in 2018.

- MN-8 (Open Seat): Incumbent Democrat Rick Nolan is not seeking re-election in this consensus Toss-Up district. Republicans consider MN-8 to be a top pickup opportunity despite the fact that the GOP candidate has only won here twice in the last 70 years.Barack Obama easily carried MN-8 in both 2008 and 2012, butDonald Trump won here in 2016 (54-37).

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