The Battle for the Minnesota Senate: Updated Watch List

The 2012 elections are just over 40 days away and at least once a week until Election Day, I will post an updated target list of the battleground races for the Minnesota Legislature.  Today, I’m starting with the Minnesota Senate – check back later in the week for an update on the races for the Minnesota House of Representatives. For background, click here for my original post on the battle for 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.  

I’ve spoken with operatives on both sides of the aisle and the biggest change in this list is that I’ve added Senate District 25, which pits Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem against Olmsted County Commissioner Judy Ohly.  Last week, the Rochester Post-Bulletin endorsed Ohly over Senjem – which is big momentum for Ohly. The Post-Bulletin is largest newspaper in the district (and one of the biggest in Minnesota) and their early endorsement of Ohly gives her an opportunity to boast about the newspaper’s endorsement in the weeks leading up to Election Day.  

It is common for legislative endorsements to come out a few weeks in advance of the election, but this endorsement came out 50 days from Election Day.  Ohly now has been generously afforded 50 days to talk about why the largest newspaper in the district endorsed her over Senjem.  After the endorsement of Ohly over Senjem, the Rochester Post-Bulletin followed up with a series of additional legislative endorsements, including endorsing Senator Carla Nelson over DFLer Ken Moen.

While the some of the election responsibilities for the Senate GOP Caucus are being lead by Senator David Hann and Senator Michelle Fischbach, keeping Senjem in Rochester focused on his election provides the Senate DFL Caucus with a tactical advantage.  Because Senator Bakk, the head of the Senate DFL Caucus, is in stronger position to be re-elected, he can focus more time on fundraising and the overall election strategy.  The Senate GOP will have to divide up more and more of Senjem’s caucus responsibilities, as he will need to be focused on his own re-election.  Keep Senate District 25 on your watch list, as Rochester has become a battleground area for control of the Minnesota Senate

Top 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 Dave Senjem (GOP incumbent) vs. Judy Ohly – Senate District 25

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

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

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

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

#11. 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

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.



  1. You were spot-on for my Primary race…any intel on my race in SD33? My opponent has vitually no campaign at this point. Thanks.

  2. Pingback: Election Day Predictions: Obama, Klobuchar Win in Minnesota, GOP Loses Seats in Legislature, Photo ID Amendment Passes, Marriage Amendment Fails | - An inside view of Minnesota politics by Michael Brodkorb

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