Rarick, GOP win special election in MN Senate Dist. 11

History shows that mighty campaigns die in the winter and all dynasties come to an end.

Jason Rarick

State Rep. Jason Rarick (R-Pine City) defeated DFLer Stu Lourey in the Minnesota Senate District 11 special election Tuesday.

Rarick racked up big numbers in his home House district and kept the vote close enough in the DFL-leaning northern part of the Senate district. Lourey led at one point early in the tally, but just couldn’t weather the numbers out of Pine and Kanebec counties.

Turnout was extremely low.  You might expect that on a subzero February election day marked by dangerous road conditions and traffic delays.

Rarick’s win prevents a third consecutive member of the Lourey family from holding this rural swing district in east central Minnesota. Republicans had made a big issue out of Lourey’s family name, and the fact that he had been working in Washington, D.C., for Sen. Tina Smith prior to the election.

Sen. Tony Lourey, Stu’s father, resigned his seat to become commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services. In 2016, he carried the seat for the DFL in a district that went to President Trump by a strong margin.

Rarick, an electrician, endeavored to break the mold of Republican candidates in the labor-friendly north. He won a few endorsements from building trades unions, though Lourey carried the lion’s share of union backing.

I watched the last debate in the race on Almanac North last Friday night. It was pretty boring, and foretold the low turnout. But my observations of the candidates were that Rarick was calm and unoffensive. Lourey was earnest and energetic, but might have been trying just a bit too hard.

Lots of campaign cash and energy were spent on both sides, with top office holders in both parties knocking doors across the frigid landscape.

Republicans get to brag about the gained seat. They can use this as a talking point in the legislative session. Meanwhile DFLers are left wondering how to win rural seats like this, even after dedicating so much of their agenda to rural issues.

Oh, and now Rarick’s House seat will go to a special election. So we’re not done. But 11B is a fairly safe Republican seat, so I wouldn’t expect as much attention.


  1. “… how to win rural seats like this”

    Nominate strong candidates.

    Also, watch out for hubris when you decide a seat is so safe that you can make the incumbent an administrator and still hold the seat.

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