The Battle for the Minnesota Legislature: The Minnesota Senate

All 201 seats in the Minnesota Legislature are up for re-election this year and due to the new redistricting maps, there are also 8 open senate districts.  The current partisan breakdown of the Minnesota Senate is 37 seats for the GOP, 30 seats for the DFL.  The Senate DFL Caucus needs to pick-up 4 seats currently held by the GOP to win control of the Minnesota Senate. But the new redistricting map released on February 21, 2012 by the Minnesota Supreme Court Redistricting Panel favors the Senate GOP Caucus over the Senate DFL Caucus because of population shifts in the last decade.  

The Senate DFL Caucus does have significantly more cash-on-hand to spend on the races than the Senate GOP Caucus – but the Senate DFL Caucus has to focus on more races to win control of the Minnesota Senate.  I will have more analysis on the fundraising numbers of the legislative caucuses later this week.  

In 2010, the Senate GOP defeated 16 Senate DFL incumbents.  There are not many more Senate DFL incumbents to defeat – Republicans have already won most of the available seats.  The focus for the Senate GOP this election will be defending seats won in  2010 and winning as many of the open senate districts as possible.  There are a few open seats the Senate DFL will win, so their likely path to winning control of the Minnesota Senate is by defeating Senate GOP incumbents. 

As I noted in my post yesterday, the Senate GOP and Senate DFL caucuses will likely battle head-to-head in 10 races or less. Below is my list of the top-ten senate races to watch. These races will ultimately decide who controls the Minnesota Senate. I’ve also added an additional “on-deck” list of races that could be included in future lists. I will be updating the top-ten list over the coming weeks based on developments on the campaign trail. It’s 65 days before the election, so any predictions would be meaningless at this point as many things will change over the coming weeks. But as we get closer to election day, I’ll add more analysis along with predictions on who will be victorious on Election Day. 

Top-10 Senate Races to Watch

#1. Senator John Carlson (GOP incumbent) vs. Senator Tom Saxhaug (DFL incumbent) – Senate District 5 (pairing) 

#2. Senator Pam Wolf (GOP incumbent) vs. Former State Representative Alice Johnson – Senate District 37 

#3. Senator Ben Kruse (GOP incumbent) vs. John HoffmanSenate District 36 

#4. Senator Joe Gimse (GOP incumbent) vs. Senator Lyle Koenen (DFL incumbent) – Senate District 17 (pairing)

#5. Representative Keith Downey vs. Melisa FrazenSenate District 49 (open – Michel current incumbent)

#6. Senator Jeremy Miller (GOP incumbent) vs. Jack Krage – Senate District 28 

#7. Senator John Pederson (GOP incumbent) vs. Jerry McCarter – Senate District 14 

#8. Senator Ted Daley (GOP incumbent) vs. former Senator Jim CarlsonSenate District 51 

#9. Phil Hansen vs. State Representative Kent EkenSenate District 4 (open – Langseth current incumbent)

#10. Vern Swedin vs. Vicki JensenSenate District 24 (open) 

On-Deck to Watch

Senator David Hann (GOP incumbent) vs. Laurie McKendrySenate District 48

Senator John Howe (GOP incumbent) vs. Matt SchmitSenate District 21

Senator Carla Nelson (GOP incumbent) vs. Kenneth MoenSenate District 26

Senator Dave Senjem (GOP incumbent) vs. Judy OhlySenate District 25

Bill Weber vs. Alan Oberloh – Senate District 22 (open – Magnus current incumbent)

Please leave a comment if you have thoughts or input on the races I selected.  Please check back to for more analysis this week on the legislative elections.

UPDATE: I’ve received some great feedback on my list of top-ten races to watch.  Former Senator Carrie Rudd is running against Taylor Stevenson in the new Senate District 10.  From my sources, Rudd is running a great campaign and I think she is in strong position to win in November, therefore I didn’t include this race on my list.  I added Senator Jeremy Miller to my top-ten list because he won by 437 votes in 2010. This race could fall off the top-ten list very quickly, as Senator Miller is in a strong position to win re-election. Thanks again for all of the feedback on the races I selected. 


  1. I used to live in Alice Johnson’s district shen she was a state rep. I found her to be unresponsive to the district and it was unclear to me whether she was actually promoting the agenda of her constituents or the Democrat party. Let’s hope she is not elected to the state Senate.

  2. Why are you ignoring Senate 64 Anderson vs. Cohen and Larsen

  3. Pingback: The Battle for the Minnesota Legislature: The Minnesota Senate – Fundraising | - An inside view of Minnesota politics by Michael Brodkorb

  4. Pingback: The Battle for the Minnesota Senate: Updated Watch List | - An inside view of Minnesota politics by Michael Brodkorb

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