LIVE BLOG: Election Night 2016

After the popularity of my 2014 Nolan vs. Mills graphic, I've offered up a new entry for 2016. (Aaron J. Brown from campaign images and "West Side Story" screenshot)

After the popularity of my 2014 Nolan vs. Mills graphic, I offer a new entry for 2016. (GRAPHIC: Aaron J. Brown, from campaign images and “West Side Story” screenshot)

Tonight we watch as election results pour in across the United States and here in Northern Minnesota. I’ll be watching some key local races, with an eye toward trends. More than 20 years of covering local news and 10 years of live-blogging Northern Minnesota elections give me a perspective some might find valuable.

Who am I? I’m Aaron Brown. I’ve worked in Iron Range-area media since I was 16. A former newspaper editor and radio reporter, I’m now a Hibbing Community College teacher who writes a weekly newspaper column for the Hibbing Daily Tribune, produces the Great Northern Radio Show for Northern Community Radio, and writes this blog and other work you might read in places like The Daily Yonder and the Star Tribune. I’m blogging from MinnesotaBrown World Headquarters in rural Itasca County.

Top Races

* = incumbent; blue=Democrat, red=Republican, green=Green Party; Underline=Projected Winner

Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump

Congress, MN-8
Rick Nolan* v. Stewart Mills

House 5B
Tom Anzelc* v. Sandy Layman v. Dennis Barsness

Control of the MN Senate

Control of the MN House


Wednesday 8:11 a.m. — A new dawn. No one promised we had to like the dawn, but we get a new one every day. I’ve worked through some stages of grief and feel like I can process things again.

Big night for the GOP. Minnesota Republicans expand their majority in the House and, in a real surprise, take the Senate. Sen. Rod Skoe in SD2 was listed as vulnerable and sure enough got beat. But even Sen. Tom Saxhaug, who drew a lower-tier opponent and faced little outside spending, got beat in District 5. Both House DFLers in 5A and 5B, John Persell and my friend Tom Anzelc, respectively, lost badly to higher profile Republican challengers in Matt Bliss and Sandy Layman.

At the beginning of the election, the map showed clearly that District 5 was the DFL trench in Northern Minnesota. The Republicans essentially overran that trench last night and now occupy the western Mesabi Iron Range. Rural Minnesota has rejected the DFL in two straight elections.

As I wrote here, Congressman Rick Nolan is a steely-eyed survivor. I’ll explore reasons why in coming days, but at heart will be the fact that the Iron Range abandoned Clinton, but did not abandon Rick Nolan. This can only be attributed to the fact that Nolan proved himself a leader on mining issues, particularly related to tariffs on dumped foreign steel

11:49 — I just can’t write anymore. I don’t know what to say. Nolan still leads by 8,000 votes but it’s tightening. Duluth is already in, so I’d bet the rest of the map is less favorable for the incumbent. I’ll mop this up in the morning.

A lot of dark talk from my liberal friends. The world will go on. I remember something a conservative told me, one of my very favorite former co-workers, after President Obama won in 2008 and the Democrats took both houses of Congress. “It’s on you now.” I hope my Republican friends, and even the Republican I called a bully, remember that we are one country. And while much of what I believe is threatened tonight, I will not reduce this night to fitful rage.

11:20 — Cycling through some other races, I see District 10’s Republican incumbents — from Sen. Carrie Ruud down to 10A Rep. Josh Heintzeman and 10B Rep. Dale Lueck all appear very safe. We have what appears to be, at least in many areas, at least a small Republican wave in Minnesota. It appears Clinton will win the state by a razor’s edge, and that leaves little room for success down ballot.

Meanwhile, in the St. Louis County District 7 race I had mentioned in my “top races” post, Mike Jugovich is barely leading Melissa Scaia by a little over 100 votes with 11 precincts yet to report.

10:54 — It’s been difficult to process the night’s news objectively. This much is apparent. Donald Trump is likely to win the presidential race. My friend Tom Anzelc has lost precincts that he needs to win in House 5B, and isn’t clearing numbers out of his strong districts as he normally would. Sandy Layman appears headed for victory. I’ll wait for the rest of Grand Rapids.

Nolan vs. Mills? Nolan is still leading on the SOS site by 8 points. That will tighten as the night goes on.

10:18 — We’ve got our first numbers from 5B. Itasca County, but not Grand Rapids. Sandy Layman carries LaPrairie and holds Tom Anzelc to a 120-vote lead in Coleraine. Bovey and Balsam Township go for Anzelc in fairly normal numbers. The Green Party’s Dennis Barsness is at 4.5 percent. If that holds, it will be a very close race. Grand Rapids is always crucial, but for the first time I am nervous about this one.

9:56 — I’ve got more numbers from Hibbing. Two different sources, and it looks like the biggest town in District 6A will deliver the election to Julie Sandstede. I’m also looking at the St. Louis County District 7 race. Melissa Scaia needed to win Hibbing and she seems very close to doing so, but it might not overcome Jugovich’s expected totals in Chisholm. That could be close.

9:49 — 6 percent in on the Secretary of State site and Stewart Mills is leading Rick Nolan by about 3 percent. Everything so far indicates a very close race. Meantime, some of these early unofficial numbers in Hibbing show me that Julie Sandstede will retain House 6A for Democrats. The GOP gains are not as high as I thought they might be, though they are present.

9:31 — Another Hibbing precinct, pre-absentees. P11 goes for Trump. By the way, Rick Nolan led by healthy margins in all these Hibbing precincts. So we can confirm that even if Trump does very well in MN-8, which many expected, Nolan is getting ticket splitters.

International Falls went for Nolan 1,913-1,569, which is considered a pretty good number for Nolan, though indicative of a close race.

9:13 — I’ve got two Hibbing precincts, 5 and 10, both BEFORE early voting. P10 is one of the big ones. Both show Sandstede leading Farnsworth. But the notable detail is that Trump won P5 and lost P10 by just one vote. Early voting might put Clinton back up, but if those margins hold, that is an astounding collapse for the Democratic nominee on the Iron Range. Certainly that could explain why Minnesota is still too close to call in the presidential race. That could be the story across rural Minnesota.

8:50 — I’m back from Tom Anzelc’s election party at Lawrence Lake Liquor, a little back country bar on the Scenic Highway in Itasca County. If you missed it, I have to declare my conflict of interest in that I’m Tom’s campaign manager. It’s the only partisan activity I have left on my schedule. So I’ll be pulling for Tom, but will call a clean game as the results come in.

The story of the night: Trump. He’s beating expectations everywhere. Not a blowout. Clinton could still win. But it will be a nail-biter.

8:00 — Polls have closed in Minnesota. First results generally aren’t available for an hour. For some perspective on our timeline, in 2012 we knew the presidential result by 10 p.m., but the Congressional and local legislative races weren’t clear until after midnight. This year we might have to wait longer for everything. Or maybe not.

What we’re looking for are trends. Because 2016 is a MN-8 rematch, I’ll compare precinct results from 2014 to what’s coming in tonight. That should give us some sense of whether Rick Nolan’s percentages are holding up or faltering.

In House 5B, I’ll be looking at the 2012 precinct results. In that high profile race, Tom Anzelc faced fellow incumbent Carolyn McElfatrick. I see many similarities between Anzelc’s current race against Sandy Layman to that race, so a few key precincts might show us a trend.

I’ll make other observations about legislative and local races as they are merited. Buckle up, friends. It will be over before you know it.

Nothing much to report from the day. We had gruff-looking poll watchers stationed at the Balsam Township Hall this morning. Two of them, actually. They sit there and scowl at people, looking for evidence of voter fraud that never comes. Tragic figures, really.


  1. How often are you going to post?

  2. District 10 is not looking good for the DFL. With between 40-47 percent reporting Lueck is up 2:1, 10A is going Republican by 16 percent and Ruud is up 2:1.

  3. When the DFL had a formally pro-life candidate 10B was a competitive district. As I suggested awhile back Wagner’s pro-abortion stance is likely helping her to a Lueck blowout. The DFL cut off its pro-life wing and now flying is harder.

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