We are sure at some point, someone will pen the words that more accurately describe the 2010 elections in Minnesota, but for now STUNNING will suffice. The final outcome is still weeks, if not months away. The following is what we know today. We will continue to update our posts as more is known.
The Race for Governor: The three way race for Governor was, and is, a nail biter. Independent Party candidate Tom Horner did not fare as well as many had predicted and ultimately barely broke the double digits. The race between Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer will ultimately be decided by a recount. Minnesota law requires a recount if the margin is less than one-half of one percent. In the case of the 2010 gubernatorial race, the margin is currently .43 percent, or roughly 8,600 votes in favor of Mark Dayton. Republicans have sworn to fight the results tooth and nail citing numerous abnormalities. In a unique twist, Governor Tim Pawlenty announced today that the Constitution requires him to remain Governor until a new Governor is sworn in, even if it is beyond his four year term which expires in January, 2011. Minnesotans know from the experience of the 2008-9 U.S. Senate race that a statewide recount can take several months. With Republicans still stinging from the defeat in the U.S. Senate race, it would be prudent to take them at their word that they will exhaust all their options to see Tom Emmer seated as Minnesota’s next Governor. If indeed the recount does take several months, Governor Pawlenty could oversee an entire legislative session in his role as caretaker before a new Governor is certified the winner.
Legislature: Few saw the magnitude of change that the Minnesota Legislature would realize in 2010. Most pundits agreed that the margins in the House and Senate would tighten significantly in 2010. The Senate Democrats had a 46-21 majority and had never been in the minority. The House Democrats had an 87-47 majority. By the end of the night, these seemingly insurmountable majorities had completely evaporated and then some. The Senate Republicans picked up 16 seats to assume the majority with 37 members to the Democrats’ 30. The House Republicans added 23 new members to secure a 72-62 majority. There will be at least 3 recounts, as mandated by law, in the House but these numbers will remain essentially the same for the 2011 Session.
The new House and Senate leadership will have a lot of work to do between now and January 3. The House Democrats elected Paul Thissen of Minneapolis to be their Minority Leader. Senate Democrats elected Tom Bakk of Cook to lead their caucus. Both bodies will have to appoint new chairs, appoint new membership to committees and define schedules. With a nearly $6 billion budget shortfall looming, members will have to get up to speed very quickly to solve the budget problem.
Constitutional Offices: Other than the outstanding Governor/Lt. Governor race to be resolved, Democrats retained their hold on the remaining constitutional offices. Attorney General Lori Swanson was re-elected to a second term as was State Auditor Rebecca Otto and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
November 2, 2010, will afford Minnesotans the opportunity to elect all 201 legislators (67 Senators and 134 State Representatives), all constitutional officers including Governor/Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and State Auditor as well as all 8 representatives of the U.S. Congress. Numerous other local government seats will also be up for grabs. As of this writing, there are a full three weeks until the 2010 election. The following is a brief history of the Minnesota political scene and a few guesses as to what may happen in November.
The Governor’s office in Minnesota is currently held by Tim Pawlenty who announced earlier this year he would not run for reelection after serving two terms. Minnesota has not had a Democratic Governor since 1990. The House and Senate Chambers are currently held by Democrat Majorities. The Minnesota Senate has not been led by Republicans since partisan designation in 1972. The Minnesota House has gone back and forth numerous times in its leadership, swinging back to the Democrats in 2006. All constitutional offices are currently held by Democrats as well.
Minnesota elected an independent candidate, Jesse Ventura, to be Governor in 1998. Ventura chose not to run for reelection in 2002. Subsequent elections saw the Independence party candidate prove only the spoiler. Governor Pawlenty won both the 2002 and 2006 elections without a majority but rather a slim plurality. In both elections, the Independence party nominated a candidate with Democratic ties. Once again in 2010, Minnesota faces a three way race. The difference in 2010 is that the Independence candidate has Republican ties. There is a raging debate in Minnesota whether the Independence Party candidate will take from the Republican candidate or the Democrat. Based solely on the rhetoric from the Republican Party, it appears they are more concerned about moderate Republicans moving toward the Independence Party.
In 2006, when all seats were up as they are in 2010, the political winds were blowing in a definitive Democratic direction. The Democrats picked up or retained all constitutional offices. The House Democrats captured the majority and the Senate Democrats added a significant number of seats to their caucus. With the political winds reportedly blowing in a different direction in 2010, it is assumed that the Democratic majorities will be much slimmer. Most pundits continue to believe the Democrats will continue to control the Legislature but the Republicans will be much more competitive and relevant. Other than the Attorney General’s office, which appears to be locked up for the Democrats, the other constitutional offices appear to be very competitive.
The dominant issues in Minnesota, as in many states, are job creation, unemployment and a massive projected budget shortfall. Minnesota’s unemployment rate is significantly below the national average but is still stubbornly high. Minnesota’s budget is projected to be $5-6 billion in the red for the upcoming biennium. Minnesota has experienced almost annual budget shortfalls over the past decade. Governor Pawlenty was adamant in his opposition to any new tax increases. Prior budgets were generally balanced by spending cuts and accounting shifts. Most of the shifts and low hanging fruit have been cut or utilized.