November 4th, 2010
 Election Report 2010

Wow!  It was a very interesting and somewhat surprising election night.  The Republican tidal wave that flowed across the county, hit Minnesota with a vengeance.   As a result, the Republican Party will now control both houses of the Minnesota State Legislature, something that hasn't happened for almost forty years.  However, the large Republican turnout could not carry Tom Emmer into the governor's office.  I suspect that Tom Horner's candidacy shifted enough votes away from Emmer to allow Mark Dayton to squeak by with a 9,000 vote victory.    In essence, the election was just a flip of the last four years, one party control of the legislature and the other party in the governor's office.  Minnesota apparently likes divided government.

However, since the gubernatorial vote margin is within one half of a percent of the total vote, a mandatory recount will occur.  Here we go again.  The recount itself should not be too time consuming.  The legislature fixed some of the problems with absentee ballots last year as a result of the Franken-Coleman race.  But court challenges could keep this from being over for several months.  In a case of a contested election, the current governor, Tim Pawlenty, could continue in office setting up a very interesting possibility with a Republican legislature heading to town.

In the State Senate, the Republicans were able to pick up 16 seats to gain a 37-30 majority.  Thirteen Democrat incumbents including long time incumbents Leo Foley and Don Betzold were defeated.  The Republicans also picked up three open seats vacated by Democrats,   Steve Murphy, Jim Vickerman,  and Tarryl Clark.  No Republican incumbent was defeated.  The last time the Republicans actually controlled the state senate was in 1972, when they were "conservatives" and did not have party designations.   This is a major shift in the status quo of Minnesota politics. 

In the House, Republicans look like they will gain 25 seats to give them a 72-62 seat majority.  There will be four mandatory recounts of races with less than 200 vote margins.  The Republicans knocked off 21 Democrat incumbents including long time representatives, Loren Solberg, Bernie Lieder and Al Juhnke.  They also picked up four open seats vacated by representatives Mary Ellen Otremba, Larry Haws, Jeremy Kalin and Carla Bingham. 

Fifteen current or former insurance professionals were on the ballot this year.  Twelve were elected to the legislature.  They are:

  • Senator John Carlson, American Family agent and current NAIFA president
  • Senator Tam Saxhaug, former independent agency owner
  • Senator Paul Gazelka, State Farm agent
  • Senator Gary Dahms, American Family agent
  • Senator Carla Nelson, agent and wife of Terry Nelson agency owner
  • Senator Geoff Michel, attorney at Securian
  • Senator Chuck Wiger , attorney at Securian
  • Representative Ron Simanski, former life and health agent
  • Representative Glen Gruenhagen, agent
  • Representative Greg Davids, agent and MIIAB member
  • Representative Pat Mazorol, former CEO Securian Trust
  • Representative Tim Sanders, Fireman's Fund underwriter


Defeated in their election efforts were Representative Phil Sterner, Representative Sandy Masin and Rick Rice.  Masin and Rice are NAIFA members.

Now that the election is over, the newly elected legislature must turn from campaigning to governing.  Their first step will be to elect their new leadership, a new speaker and senate majority leader as well as new minority leaders.  Then they will organize their committees and committee chairs and members.  This will be the focus of the new Republican leadership in the weeks ahead.  

Without a clear winner in the governor's race, the job of organizing a transition team, a new cabinet and selection of commissioners to run state agencies will be postponed until a winner is declared.  This and the organization of the new Republican legislature will have a great impact upon our legislative agenda.    We have an interesting few weeks ahead as this sorts itself out.

Dominic Sposeto
MIIAB Governmental Affairs Director

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