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GOP Holds on to MN 28B House Seat; But What Does It Mean?

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Republican Steve Drazkowski defeated DFL candidate Linda Pfeilsticker 52.9 to 46.9 percent in a special election in House District 28B to replace former Rep. Steve Sviggum on Tuesday.

While Ron Carey, the state Republican Party Chairman characterized Drazkowski's win as signaling "growing Republican momentum as we head into 2008," the GOP should be cautious to read too much into this race. District 28B has voted overwhelmingly for Republican candidates in recent years.

First, Steve Sviggum won the district by an average of 28 points after redistricting in the 2002, 2004, and 2006 elections. Drazkowski—who ran for the state Senate District 28 just last fall—only won by 6 points in Tuesday's election. Moreover, Drazkowski actually carried 28B in his state Senate run (by a 50-49 margin); as such he was the clear favorite to win the race.

Secondly, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty carried the district in both 2002 and 2006. In 2002, DFL-er Roger Moe (20.8 percent) only received only about half the votes as Pawlenty (40.7 percent), while Independence Party nominee Tim Penny received 36.7 percent. In 2006, Pawlenty beat DFL nominee Mike Hatch by 11 points—51.8 to 40.7 percent, 10 points higher than the Governor's 1-point statewide victory margin.

Thirdly, in 2004, George W. Bush carried District 28B by nearly 10 points over John Kerry (53.8 to 44.4 percent), in a race in which Kerry won the state by 3.5 points statewide—a 13-point difference.

Fourthly, District 28B has also been much more friendly to Republican U.S. Senate candidates. In 2002, Norm Coleman defeated Walter Mondale by 7.8 points in 28B (51.8 to 44.0 percent)—5.5 points higher than his 2.2-point victory statewide. In 2006, while Amy Klobuchar carried the district, she did so by 11 points less (9.2) than her statewide margin of victory (20.1).

In short, the Republicans held what should have been a safe seat on Tuesday—but did so only by 6 points. Look at this race to portend not necessarily big Republican gains in 2008, but potential competitive races or even DFL pick-ups for any open GOP legislative seats next year.

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2 Comments


  • Spin ... Spin ... Spin.

    First off, there is no winner ... just losers ... roughly the 15, 644 registered voters who did not like either of the choices ... so both parties failed.

    28B may not be the easiest District to decipher as it includes part of Walz in the First(Wabasha) and part of Kline in the Second (Goodhue County).

    For the DFL, they failed to get the job done.
    Walz(D) won the District 7,191 versus 6,359. In the State Senate seat, Murphy(D) prevailed with 17,511 versus Drazkowski's 14,627. There was every reason to think that the DFL should have prevailed. Admittedly, the Goodhue County portion was won by Kline but Rawley did get 7,619 votes ... so there should have been plenty of potential voters to get to the polls. On paper, they offered a young candidate with good credentials and an Ag background. She got 3,333 votes.

    For the IR, they should be concerned. Yes, they retained the seat, but their candidate had some name recognition from his previous Senate run just the past November. Heck, he got 14,627 votes for the Senate but only 3,762 (for the House District). That's not a drop-off, that's falling off the cliff ... especially since Sviggum would have wanted the seat to stay in the IR column.

    Admittedly, Special Elections do not get the voter turnout that a regular election gets, but that is really pathetic to have that many voters not participate. Sviggum got 12,984 votes in the Presidential election year and then it fell down to 9,677 in 2006. So, Drazkowski got roughly 1/3 of the votes that Sviggum got.
    Now, compare that to Pfeilsticker who got over half of the 6,214 DFL votes for Sviggum's competitor. So the DFL was still appealing to the independents.

    Still considering the enthusiasm for Walz and the anger of the I-35 bridge, I would have thought that the DFL would have won. I will call it a loss for the IR and the DFL ... but more so for the 15,644 who didn't bother to participate.

  • Hmmm...I was a bit confused as to whom you thought was spinning -- the state GOP Party head or Smart Politics. If, perchance, you meant the latter, I stand by the numbers reported in this blog entry - they come directly from the Secretary of State's website. But I would like to clarify a few points for our readers where your numbers go astray.

    You wrote that in the District 28 Senate race that DFL-er Murphy prevailed over Drazkowski. True, but misleading -- as that was for the entire Senate District; those are not the numbers for HD 28B. Those numbers are what I reported here: Drazkowski won the 28B portion of that race (by a 50-49 margin).

    The numbers you report for the U.S. House are also for the entire Senate District 28, not HD 28B. In 28B, John Kline defeated Rowley by a large margin: 24 points (59-34 percent), which accounted for approximately 1/3 of the votes for the U.S. House in the district. In the other 2/3, Walz defeated Gutknecht by less than 400 votes (51.9 to 48 percent), 5,114 to 4,730.

    In addition to the recent historical election data I provided regarding gubernatorial, presidential, and US Senate races, there was additional information demonstrating that District 28B is definitely to the right of the state overall; as such this special election is not a race I would have expected the DFL candidate to win, nor be particularly competitive (especially considering Drazkowski's name recognition advantage).

    For example, in the race for Secretary of State in 2006, Republican incumbent Mary Kiffmeyer defeated DFL-er Mark Ritchie by 9 points; Ritchie won by 5 points statewide - a 14 point difference.

    But, I agree, there is no doubt this special election failed to turn out most voters from November 2006.

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