LIVE BLOG: Northern Minnesota Election Night 2014

Nolanzilla vs. Mills Kong

Nolanzilla vs. Mills Kong

BOLD denotes MinnesotaBrown/media projection of winner; * denotes incumbent

U.S. Senate:
Al Franken* (DFL) vs. Mike McFadden (GOP)

Governor and Lt. Gov.:
Mark Dayton and Tina Smith* (DFL) vs. Jeff Johnson and Bill Kuisle (GOP)

U.S. House MN District 8:
Rick Nolan* (DFL) vs. Stewart Mills (GOP) vs. Skip Sandman (Green)

MN State House of Representatives:
DFL* vs. GOP (Republican takeover)



 (Refresh  for new information)

5:54 a.m. — The Grand Rapids sales tax measure failed, but only by five points. Itasca County Sheriff Victor Williams is re-elected, defeating a spirited challenge from one of his deputies, Bryan Johnson. Nashwauk Township followed Scotland’s lead and opted not to secede from the city of Nashwauk.

In Grand Rapids, Magnetation President Matt Lehtinen won a seat on the school board, leading all vote-getters. He’s rapidly becoming a major player in the fastest-growing part of the Iron Range (if you’re willing to consider it the Iron Range, per the ongoing culture debate on these matters).

5:50 a.m. — Good morning! MinnesotaBrown projects Rep. Rick Nolan re-elected to Congress in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District, defeating Stewart Mills by about 1 point. 

My friend State Rep. Tom Anzelc defeats Justin Eichorn by a wider margin than his 2012 victory in a new Itasca and Cass County swing district, House 5B. Anzelc is poised to win with about 56 percent.

12:24 a.m. — One final add, if Nolan continues to lead by 4,000-5,000 votes at 75 percent of precincts, he wins. I’d wait, but I need sleep.

12:11 a.m. — No finality to MN-8 or my home House district in 5B until the wee hours. I’m going to rest up for my interview tomorrow. I’ll be up early to sort through what the hoot owls are doing. It occurs to me that I have to teach tomorrow.

11:31 p.m. — Nice to see Rita Albrecht re-elected mayor in Bemidji. There’s a lot going on in that little North Central MN college town. Will be the site of major growth in 21st century, according to some projections.

11:29 p.m. — I’m eying midnight as my cutoff before I hit the sack and get up early for an MPR interview and actual MN-8 returns. Hoping for some numbers from Itasca County and other Range locations.

11:15 p.m. — Most of Itasca County still not in the SOS results. That being said, looking at MPR’s House projection map and it’s looking more likely than not that the GOP will take the MN House of Representatives. Could be close, but it would take four or five miracles, not just one.

I’d add that those two potential DFL pickups in Northwestern Minnesota I mentioned yesterday? Not likely. Kiel and Green look safe in 1B and 2B. Faust is gone, and Radinovich and Ward are trailing.

10:52 — Ray “Skip” Sandman, the Green Party candidate in MN-8, is persisting at about 5 percent. I had believed that if he was over 4, he’d be causing heartache for Nolan. And he is. Nolan still favored by the thinnest of margins here, but it will be so very close with thousands of liberal votes lost to a candidate fueled by Nolan’s vote on a GOP pro-mining bill.

The flip side of that is trying to figure out how many moderate votes he kept on that same vote. Ay, there’s the rub.

10:50 — WCCO calls MN-7 for Rep. Collin Peterson. Republican hopes of taking Peterson in a wave faltered. Probably his last term, and he goes out with a solid win.

10:46 — While I’m waiting on more from MN-8, it looks like the Green Party will not get major party status because Andy Dawkins hasn’t emerged from the dust in the AG race. Meantime, the Independence Party needs Bob Helland to break 5 percent to keep major party status. Right now he’s about two-tenths of a percent from that threshold.

10:45 p.m. — Iron Range lawmakers all appear headed to victory. David Dill quickly regained the lead in 3A. Carly Melin and Jason Metsa cruising in 6A and 6B respectively. Tom Anzelc in 5B still waiting on most numbers, but what we’ve seen has shown both percentage and net increases from 2012 when he won by 5 points.

10:23 p.m. — The U.S. Senate will have a Republican majority for the next Congress. Gov. Scott Walker won in Wisconsin, as did U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, the Republican incumbent in Northwestern Wisconsin across the bridge.

It looks like Tom Rukavina will clobber Christina Hujanen in the St. Louis County Board race.

10:06 p.m. — Lots of votes still out there, but looks like Attorney General Lori Swanson and State Auditor Rebecca Otto are going to be re-elected. Still need to see how the East Range comes in, for kicks, but as I’ve written before: the Dump Otto crowd on the Iron Range badly miscalculated the effects of their efforts. Otto can win without them.

Meantime, Steve Simon ahead in Secretary of State race

10:03 p.m. — DFLer Jennifer Schultz is elected to open House of Representatives seat in east Duluth. Impressed with her campaign and depth. Could be a very valuable member of DFL caucus.

9:55 p.m. — Well-placed DFL source is telling me some interesting things about the internal number crunching in Minnesota’s Eighth. Nolan is trending exactly along their bare minimum threshold. What that means is that the DFL thinks Nolan will win, but in an incredibly close fashion. I’m told my prediction of a one-point win for Nolan is “accurate.”

No reason to spin at this point. This guy is all about numbers.

“It could be recount territory.” Direct quote.

9:34 p.m. — We’ve seen the MN-8 lead go back and forth on MN-8. Mills leads now and he will for a while until Duluth reports.

9:15 p.m. — Nationally, it bears mentioning that Nate Silver and the poll aggregators got it right again. Looks like a clean U.S. Senate majority for the Republicans. Franken’s win all the more impressive, and part of the reason Minnesota seems an island in the stormy sea for Democrats.

Also, last batch from SOS shows Simon taking lead in SOS race. He still trails other DFLers, though, which is not what I expected.

9:06 p.m. — A few have been talking about this, but how amazing that Al Franken wins easily. To be perceived so divisively when he first ran, and to face the recount in 2008. Very impressive.

8:53 p.m. — What’s going on with the constitutional offices? All DFLers lead in early balloting, except Simon in Secretary of State. Is that a trend or static from the suburban districts coming in?

8:51 p.m. — Interesting to see Eric Johnson leading Rep. David Dill in the early 3A returns. I had wondered if that would be closer. Probably just early static, but worth a wary eye.

8:38 p.m. — Tom Emmer wins the open seat in MN-6, keeping the district for Republicans and succeeding Rep. Michele Bachman. The only Congressional races in question now are MN-7 and here in MN-8, where we await numbers of any kind.

8:22 p.m. — What matters more? Convincing wins by Franken and Dayton that might have coattails? Or lower-than-the-DFL-would-like turnout? My take is that, district by district, control of State House will be decided by the quality of campaigns and local factors.

8:17 p.m. — Home from the party. Full of porketta. NBC projects Al Franken is re-elected to the U.S. Senate. NBC projects Mark Dayton is re-elected governor, with new Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. Turnout seems to be at or just above 2010 levels, which means GOP has good chance at taking Minnesota House and MN-8 will be whisker close.

4:12 p.m. — Iron Range turnout reports show average to above-average turnout for midterm races. Bear in mind that in much of the 8th District turnout is pretty high every election. For Democrats, number worse than 2012 aren’t too bad, so long as they’re better than 2010.

Kids are about to get home from school. Things get crazy then. More updates to come.

3:40 p.m. — I neglected to mention that in addition to following this live blog, you should follow me on Twitter (@minnesotabrown) or Facebook. I’ll sharing and retweeting information there you might not find on the blog. Also, help me out: subscribe to

A note on today’s live blog graphic featuring Nolanzilla vs. Mills Kong. Naturally, I’ve pulled the image from “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” which is notable for several reasons. First of all, the movie was probably best understood as a collision of cultures. Despite both creatures being destructive forces that ravaged New York and Tokyo, respectively, Americans and Japanese had both come to feel a sense of pride in their deadly movie creature. In a way, that’s what we see in Minnesota’s Eighth District. It’s not just a conservative Republican facing a liberal Democrat; it’s a meeting of two different way of thinking.

Fittingly, there were two versions of “King Kong vs. Godzilla” released. The Japanese one featured a victorious Godzilla, while American audiences demanded a reshoot that involved King Kong “coming back” to whirl Godzilla around by the tail and throw him far, far away.

There will be only one outcome for today’s election and, unfortunately, I doubt it will be quite this satisfying for voters of either party.

2:33 p.m. — Welcome to Election Day 2014! Polls are still open, and so is my biennial tradition of the “Great Northern” Live Blog. Later on we’ll have some porketta at Tom Anzelc’s house, but meantime a few notes.

Who am I? I’m Aaron Brown. I’ve worked in radio and print media on Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range since I was 16. I’m an author, state political analyst, and community college communication instructor. I have one conflict of interest to declare. I help run the State House campaign for my aforementioned friend and fellow Balsam Township resident Tom Anzelc, a DFLer here in Itasca and Cass counties. A former local DFL board member and organizer, I’ve since given that up to focus on my writing and this site, which has come to be regarded as a reliable and objective source of information about the news, politics and culture of Northern Minnesota.

You can catch up on the races I’m covering in my final Northern Minnesota pre-election analysis. In addition to the top line races you see at the top of this post, I’ll also have my eye on local races around the region, including six northern State House districts that could shape control of the legislature. If things get slow, I may tell you a little about the Itasca County Sheriff’s race. I’ll also be looking to the mayor race in Bemidji, the county commissioner’s race in northern St. Louis County featuring the political comeback of former State Rep. Tom Rukavina, and a city sales tax measure on the ballot in Grand Rapids. Other tidbits that cross my path may end up in the coverage.

Later tonight, around 9:50, I’ll be on AM950 in the Twin Cities talking about the results so far. Tomorrow morning I’ll be on Minnesota Public Radio‘s Morning Edition with Cathy Wurzer and Northern Community Radio‘s Wednesday Morning Show with Maggie Montgomery and Robert Saxton.

First of all, don’t expect to know much by your normal bedtime. We probably won’t know the result of the Eighth District race until very early morning, unless the contest breaks surprisingly hard one way or the other. Many of the House races will be difficult to call until at least midnight. Again, sometimes these things move more quickly than you’d expect, but that’s not usually something to bet on.

While the polls are still open, here’s a groundbreaking midday early voting analysis and some funny stuff I observed over the weekend.

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Like what you’re reading? Buy my book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range” for a heartfelt and humorous look at the stories, history, politics and wackiness of my world here in Northern Minnesota. Tune into my Great Northern Radio Show, a traveling live broadcast variety program I write, produce and host for Northern Community Radio on public radio stations and online.



  1. David Gray says

    When I voted at around 3:30 PM I would say that for a midterm it was relatively heavy turnout. Not as heavy as 2012 though.

  2. John Ramos says

    Why did you cast Nolan as the destructive foreigner and Mills as the heroic American? What are you up to, Brown? Who’s pulling your strings?


  3. Tammy Swedberglund says

    Pitch perfect : couple of guys wearing suits .

  4. Brian Goodspeed says

    Thank you for an evening of excellent live-blogging! It’s always interesting to hear your perspective on 8th Congressional District politics.

  5. I think both Ward and Radinovich are paying the price for thumbing their noses at their constituents on the issue of homosexual “marriage.” Ward is the more surprising of the two as he was fairly well entrenched. And Radinovich had a good work ethic. Of course Ward isn’t even part of the Cuyuna Range if you want to get technical.

  6. I don’t think there is any doubt Radinovich was punished for his vote on gay marriage. He is exactly the kind of young person needed in government…smart, dedicated and principled. I sincerely hope this will, in retrospect, just be a bump in the road on the way to bigger and better things.

    • David Gray says

      Yes, Radinovich was punished by the voters. If he wants a nice political future he might do well to move to the Twin Cities. Poking your constituents in the eye isn’t wise and promoting corrupt policy isn’t good.

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