Last week's election saw Democrats being swept into control of the Minnesota House and Senate and Republicans are asking what happened. The Republicans lost every contest in districts where, due to redistricting, incumbent Republicans were paired with incumbent Democrats. Sixteen incumbent legislators were defeated, all were Republicans. That was pretty huge. The Democrats now control the House by a 73-61 margin and the Senate by a 39-28 majority. This is the first time either party has controlled both the governor's office and state legislature since 1990.
The election brought into office 64 new legislators, however thirteen of these new members have some legislative experience having previously served in the House or Senate. This is still a very large crop of new office holders who will need to be educated about insurance, health care, taxes, and other issues.
So what happen? Some believe the lack of a concerted effort by the Romney campaign in the state reduced conservative voter turnout. Romney's campaign never opened an office in the state (really!) and until the last 10 days of the campaign basically ignored Minnesota. Furthermore, Senator Amy Klobuchar's cakewalk reelection campaign did little to create Republican enthusiasm with the top of their ticket. This lead Republicans to hope that the gay marriage and voter ID constitutional amendments would be the statewide motivation for conservative voters to come to the polls.
The constitutional amendments were a way to by-pass Governor Dayton and bring some "red meat issues" to conservatives in the state. Both gay marriage and voter ID had strong polling results with the general electorate but were particularly strong with right leaning voters. Republicans hoped this would be the ticket to their reelection efforts. Of course, that did not happen, in fact, you could make the case for the exact opposite. The two amendments did more to excite Democrats and independents than the top of the DFL ticket where Obama and Klobuchar were expected to cruise to victories in the state. These amendments brought out liberal voters throughout the state particularly younger voters.
Nearly everyone to whom I spoke on election night suggested that without the two ballot issues, it might have been a very different election. Would have Republicans held their power, who knows. It looked like the Republicans were headed for defeat in the Senate before the anti-amendments side picked up momentum. The state House is a different story. We will never know for sure, but I suspect many Republicans, if they had it to do over, would not have injected these two hot button issues into the 2012 election.
Twelve insurance agents were elected to the state legislature maintaining the same number as elected during the 2010 election. These agents include Senators Carla Nelson (Rochester), David Hann (Eden Prairie), Paul Gazelka (Baxter), Gary Dahms (Redwood Falls), Dave Brown (Becker) and newly elected Senator, agency owner and MIIAB member Vicki Jensen (Owatonna). In the House, Greg Davids (Preston), Steve Gottwalt (St. Cloud) and Glen Gruenhagen (Glencoe) were all reelected. Ron Erhardt (Edina) and Sandy Masin (Eagan) won back House seats that they had previously held. Senator John Carlson, former NAIFA President and American Family agent from Bemidji was defeated by former agent and MIIAB member Tom Saxhaug, Grand Rapids. Roberta Gibbons, current MIIAB Board member, lost her House election contest in Apple Valley.
Our association's political action committee, contributed $2850 during the 2012 election cycle to 12 candidates. All but one of these contributions went to the insurance agent-candidates mentioned earlier. The only non-agent to receive our support was Democrat Roger Reinert. This Duluth Senator is in line to be the new chair of the Senate Commerce Committee.
We contributed to six Republicans and six Democrats. Ten of these candidates were elected giving us an 83% selection rate. This is nearly identical to the selection rate of our national PAC. Good but nothing to brag about.
Now that it is over, attention will be devoted to the 2014 elections. While the Republican Party in Minnesota does some soul searching about last week's election results, candidates are quietly beginning to line up to challenge Governor Mark Dayton and Senator Al Franken who are up for reelection in 2014. Let the games begin.