Lee wins DFL endorsement in SD11; primary Tuesday

DFL delegates in Minnesota Senate District 11 endorsed former news anchor Michelle Lee for Tuesday’s special election primary.

Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee

Lee carried 93 votes to 63 for Stu Lourey on the first ballot. Lourey conceded the endorsement as Lee emerged just tenths of a percent short of the necessary 60 percent. However, Lourey vowed to continue campaigning for the Jan. 22 primary.

The winner of the DFL primary will face Republican-endorsed State Rep. Jason Rarick and Legal Marijuana Now candidate John Birrenbach in the Feb. 5 general election.

Senate District 11’s seat opened with the resignation of Lourey’s father Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick), who was recently appointed commissioner of Minnesota’s Health and Human Services Department. Becky Lourey, grandmother of Stu Lourey, held the seat before that.

Stu Lourey

Lee’s victory at the convention should be regarded at least a mild upset. Many prominent DFLers endorsed Lourey, who had also set a strong pace in fundraising. He recently began running television ads in the Duluth TV market.

However, it was evident to today’s convention watchers that Lee had the delegate advantage from the outset. Delegates were elected before the 2018 election in which Lee was a candidate for Congress. Further, Lee has embraced the fervent language of the DFL base, a key factor in motivating people to come out on a 20-below day.

Jason Rarick

Rarick avoided a primary when the GOP held their endorsing convention last week — before the withdrawal deadline. All four Republicans agreed to abide by the endorsement, which Rarick won on the first ballot. He gains the benefit of already campaigning for the general election. In fact, he spent tonight raising money with Congressman Pete Stauber and other prominent Republicans.

DFLers knew both of their candidates were going to the primary anyway, it being too late to withdraw. Nevertheless, they forged ahead with today’s convention, which gives Lee a shot in the arm against Lourey.

For his part, Lourey pulled in a number of union endorsements in the race, including the AFL-CIO, along with the support of several nearby legislators.

Lee and Lourey have maintained cordial relations, so it does appear that the party will unify after Tuesday.

Meantime, there’s really no point in trying to predict the outcome of Tuesday’s primary. Turnout will be extremely low. Motivating individual voters will be key. It’s hard to say now which candidate has the organizational advantage.

A controversy flared up this week when rural voters questioned if their ballots would be received in time to vote. The extraordinarily tight turnaround of this special election will make normal absentee balloting much more difficult.

The two-week sprint between the primary and the general will be a major party scrum. Republicans hope to pad their one-vote State Senate majority in what has proven a swing district. DFLers hope to stay within striking distance in the only elected body they don’t control.


  1. Erin Ningen says

    The voters of SD 11 are very lucky to have someone of Michelle’s caliber!

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