Northern MN House races set for 2014

MN Legislative Districts
State Politics

The filing period for state and federal offices, along with many local offices, closed Tuesday afternoon. The State Senate isn’t up for election this year, so here is a look at the  State House of Representatives races that have formed in northern Minnesota:

1A (Roseau):

  • Dan Fabian (R) – inc.
  • Bruce Patterson (DFL)

Rematch of a 2012 race in which Fabian won by 20 points. Safe GOP.

1B (Crookston):

  • Debra Kiel (R) – inc.
  • Eric Bergeson (DFL)

Kiel won by 4 points in 2012 and is favored in what will probably be a more Republican year. Bergeson is a respected business leader who could make this a race.

2A (Bagley, Lake of the Woods):

  • Roger Erickson (DFL) – inc.
  • Dave Hancock (R)

A rematch of a race run two years ago in which Erickson won by about 9 points. Could be closer, but probably still leans DFL.

2B (Park Rapids):

  • Steve Green (R) – inc.
  • David Sobieski (DFL)

Green narrowly defeated Britta Sailer by 2 points in 2012. DFLers really want this one back, but it will be tough sledding in 2014. Leans GOP.

3A (International Falls, Ely, North Shore):

  • David Dill (DFL) – inc.
  • Eric Johnson (R)

Though Dill is not known as a voracious campaigner, he has won handily in every election and holds a lot of respect among local leaders in his “just north of the Iron Range” district. He’s safe.

3B: (Hermantown, Proctor)

  • Mary Murphy (DFL) – inc.
  • Wade Fremling (R)

Though people always wonder if this district of more affluent Duluth “suburbs” will become conservative, it has reliably elected Murphy for three decades. Safe DFL.

4A (Moorhead):

  • Ben Lien (DFL) – inc.
  • Brian Gramer (R)

Lien won by about 10 points in 2012 and remains favored in this western MN college town.

4B (Detroit Lakes):

  • Paul Marquardt (DFL) – inc.
  • Jared Laduke (R)

Marquardt won by 30 points two years ago. As a socially conservative Democrat with a leadership position in the House, he is safe here.

5A (Bemidji):

  • John Persell (DFL) – inc.
  • Lavern Pederson (DFL)
  • Phillip Nelson (R)

Persell won handily last time against a respected, sitting GOP legislator. This is Pederson’s second Quioxtic primary challenge in as many elections, and Nelson is unlikely to overcome Persell unless something changes.

5B (Grand Rapids, West Range):

  • Tom Anzelc (DFL) – inc.
  • Justin Eichorn (R)

Anzelc won a tough incumbent vs. incumbent matchup by about 7 points in 2012. The district is DFL with swingy undertones. Leans DFL this time. Could become situationally competitive. (DISCLOSURE: Tom is a friend and fellow Balsam Township resident. I have run his legislative campaigns since he first ran in 2006)

6A (West Central Mesabi Iron Range):

  • Carly Melin (DFL) – inc.
  • John Finken (DFL)
  • Roger Weber (R)

Melin drew a primary challenger from Finken, one of the leaders of disaffected retired miners from the former National Steel who had their pensions robbed in the U.S. Steel takeover a decade ago. He endorsed Cravaack in the 2012 election. Her Republican opponent Weber is part of the same group of angry retired miners. While neither of them have much of a chance (they’ve been beating this drum for a long time; no one’s been able to help them), Melin will face an unusually big mess in her otherwise safe DFL seat. (TRIVIA: Weber cut his neighbor’s garage in half during a property dispute last year).

6B (Eastern Mesabi Iron Range):

  • Jason Metsa (DFL) – inc.
  • Matt Matasich

Though he hasn’t run in a while, Matt Matasich was a longtime sacrificial lamb to various DFL Representatives and Senators through the ’90s and early 2000s. Metsa is safe.

7A-OPEN (East Duluth):

  • Jennifer Schultz (DFL)
  • Becky Hall (R)

With the retirement of Tom Huntley, this strong DFL seat is open. Schultz successfully won a hard-fought DFL endorsement battle and avoided a primary. She is strongly favored against Hall, who has run for office several times without success.

7B (West Duluth):

  • Erik Simonson (DFL) – inc.
  • Travis Silvers (R)
  • Carla Bayerl (R)

Safe DFL seat for Simonson.

8A (Fergus Falls):

  • Bud Nornes (R) – inc.
  • Jim Miltich (DFL)

Nornes is a popular Republican incumbent: safe for the GOP.

8B (Alexandria):

  • Mary Franson (R) – inc.
  • Jay Sieling (DFL)

Franson won this seat by 12 *votes* in 2012, so it has to be considered at least close this time — though possibly favoring the incumbent in a midterm.

9A (Wadena, Brainerd Lakes):

  • Mark Anderson (R) – inc.
  • Dan Bye (DFL)

Likely Republican.

9B (Little Falls):

  • Ron Kresha (R) – inc.
  • Al Doty

This election was somewhat close in 2012 when Kresha won by about 6 points). Normally Kresha would be favored in a walk, but Doty is a strong candidate as a past representative who fell short in a Senate bid two years ago. Could be close. Might be one of the few pickup opportunities for DFLers in this region.

10A (Brainerd/Baxter):

  • John Ward (DFL) – inc.
  • Joshua Heintzeman (R)

Ward has survived in this swing district for a long time, so while this could be close he has to be considered the favorite.

10B (Aitkin, Crosby, Ironton):

  • Joe Radinovich (DFL) – inc.
  • Dale Lueck (R)

A rematch from a very close race two years ago, this will be one of the highest profile legislative campaigns in the state. The youthful Radinovich earned high marks among DFL colleagues for his leadership, but took some strong liberal positions in a moderate to conservative district. In a midterm this becomes a major GOP target and probably their best pickup opportunity in the northern region. 

11A (Cloquet):

  • Mike Sundin (DFL) – inc.
  • Tim Hafvenstein (R)
  • Heather Falk (R)

Seems a safe DFL district for the freshman and longtime labor leader Sundin.

11B (Hinckley):

  • Tim Faust (DFL) – inc.
  • Jason Rarick (R)

A perennial swing district, this will be another close one and another pickup opportunity for the GOP. 

Though I argued a while ago that control of the state House will probably be determined in the suburbs, several of these rural races could prove important to the mix. The GOP only needs six seats to reclaim the Minnesota House of Representatives. While the DFL arguably had an objectively good session in terms of accomplishing their stated goals, DFL voters are notoriously inconsistent in midterm elections. Turnout operations will determine control of the House and, quite possibly, the governorship.

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