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A Profile of Minnesota's 94 DFL and GOP 'Stronghold' House Districts

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In Monday's first part in a series of reports looking ahead to the battle for the Minnesota House in 2010, Smart Politics outlined several significant hurdles the Republican Party faces to not simply make a long-shot run at taking back the lower chamber in St. Paul, but to even make a sizable dent in the DFL's 40-seat advantage.

In that report, an analysis of election data spanning 543 general and special election House contests held since 2002 found the DFL to have deepened their support across 36 times as many districts as the GOP, to have won a lower percentage of their seats in 2008 by competitive margins than the Republicans as well as a larger percentage of their seats by blowout victories, and to hold a double-digit advantage in the number of 'stronghold districts.'

In today's second part of the series, Smart Politics delves deeper into these DFL and Republican stronghold districts - which districts are the most reliably DFL and Republican across the state?

The DFL has swept 52 house districts since new districts were drawn in 2002 after the 2000 census. The average margin of victory in these 52 districts is 39.0 points. Not surprisingly, the six districts with the largest average margins of victory in House contests are all located in Minneapolis. In fact, 16 of the top 20 DFL districts are located in the cities of Minneapolis or St. Paul.

District 61A, represented by 15-term DFLer Karen Clark, holds the distinction for producing the most lopsided House contests in the state, with an average 75.3-point margin of victory since 2002. Clark won her seat by 70.6 points in 2002, 75.7 points in 2004, 76.7 points in 2006, and 78.1 points in 2008.

Rounding out the Top 5 most heavily favored DFL districts in the state are 60B (Frank Hornstein, 70.4 points), 59A (Diane Loeffler, 65.6 points), 62A (Jim Davnie, 62.9 points), and 61B (Jeff Hayden, 62.7 points).

Outside of the Twin Cities, the strongest DFL district for House races in the state is District 07B out of Duluth (ranked #7), currently represented by newcomer Roger Reinert. District 07B has averaged a 58.7-point margin of victory for the DFL since 2002.

The only other non-metro districts in the DFL Top 20 are District 05A in the Eveleth region (ranked #9 at 57.7 points, held by Tom Rukavina), District 06A out of Ely (#13, 54.0 points, David Dill), and District 03A in International Falls (#18, 50.3 points, Tom Anzelc).

Overall, of the 52 districts in which the DFL has been undefeated since 2002, only eight have average margins of victory across these four election cycles of less than 20 points, and only two by less than 10 points (Disricts 13B, Willmar and 20A, Benson).

Representative Rukavina, representing the 9th strongest DFL House district in the state, is one of three House DFLers running or exploring a run for the Governor's mansion. House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher's District 60A is tied for the 10th most DFL-favored district in the state (57.4 points), and Representative Paul Thissen's District 63A in Richfield is ranked #27 on the list (with a 37.9-point average margin of victory).

Undefeated DFL Minnesota House Districts by Average Margin of Victory, 2002-2008

Rank
District
Area
State Rep.
MoV
1
61A
Minneapolis
Karen Clark
75.3
2
60B*
Minneapolis
Frank Hornstein
70.4
3
59A*
Minneapolis
Diane Loeffler
65.6
4
62A
Minneapolis
Jim Davnie
62.9
5
61B
Minneapolis
Jeff Hayden
62.7
6
58B
Minneapolis
Bobby Joe Champion
61.2
7
07B**
Duluth
Roger Reinert
58.7
8
65A
St. Paul
Cy Thao
58.0
9
05A
Eveleth
Tom Rukavina
57.7
10
60A
Minneapolis
Margaret A. Kelliher
57.4
10
59B*
Minneapolis
Phyllis Kahn
57.4
10
58A
Minneapolis
Joe Mullery
57.4
13
06A
Ely
David Dill
54.0
14
62B
Minneapolis
Jean Wagenius
52.7
15
64A
St. Paul
Erin Murphy
52.5
16
66B
St. Paul
Alice Hausman
51.6
17
66A
St. Paul
John Lesch
50.6
18
03A*
International Falls
Tom Anzelc
50.3
19
65B
St. Paul
Carlos Mariani
50.1
20
67A
St. Paul
Tim Mahoney
49.5
21
05B
Hibbing
Tony Sertich
48.6
22
09B
Detroit Lakes
Paul Marquart
45.4
23
64B
St. Paul
Michael Paymar
41.0
24
39B
Inver Grove Heights
Joe Atkins
40.4
25
06B
Duluth
Mary Murphy
40.2
26
67B
St. Paul
Sheldon Johnson
39.4
27
63A
Richfield
Paul Thissen
37.9
28
31A
Winona
Gene Pelowski
34.3
29
08A
Cloquet
Bill Hilty
34.1
30
03B**
Grand Rapids
Loren Solberg
32.4
31
07A
Duluth
Thomas Huntley
31.5
32
15B
St. Cloud
Larry Haws
31.1
33
40B
Bloomington
Ann Lenczewski
30.2
34
44B
St. Louis Park
Ryan Winkler
30.0
35
50A
Columbia Heights
Carolyn Laine
27.9
36
46B
Brooklyn Center
Debra Histrom
26.4
37
57A
Cottage Grove
Karla Bigham
24.8
38
55A
Maplewood
Leon Lillie
24.1
39
46A
Brooklyn Park
Mike Nelson
23.9
40
45B
Crystal
Lyndon Carlson
23.6
41
63B
Bloomington
Linda Slocum
23.4
42
02A
Detroit
Kent Eken
23.1
43
23B
Mankato
Kathy Brynaert
21.2
44
55B
Oakdale
Nora Slawik
20.3
45
51B
Mounds View
Tom Tillberry
19.6
46
54A
Roseville
Mindy Greiling
17.9
47
39A
West St. Paul
Rick Hansen
17.6
48
11B
Long Prairie
Mary Ellen Otremba
17.4
49
20B
Montevideo
Lyle Koenen
14.2
50
01B
Crookston
Bernie Lieder
11.8
51
13B
Willmar
Al Juhnke
9.0
52
20A
Benson
Andrew Falk
8.5
* No opposition in 2002. ** No opposition in 2006. Due to a special election in 2005, the DFL has won District 15B five times during this span. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Although the Republicans have seen their 82-seat caucus erode to 47 seats in six years, the GOP has still swept 42 districts across the state since 2002. While these 42 seats are reliably Republican, they are not quite the strongholds as their DFL counterparts.

The average margin of victory in these 42 districts is only 20.6 points. Twenty-three districts have average margins of victory of less than 20 points, including eight of less than 10 points.

Plymouth's Steve Smith, a 10-term legislator, represents the house district with the largest Republican average margin of victory since 2002. At 43.3 points per contest, Representative Smith is one of five Republicans against which the DFL has failed to field a candidate since redistricting. While Smith only had the 25th largest GOP victory in 2002, he had the fifth largest in 2004, second largest in 2006, and 10th largest in 2008.

Rounding out the Top 5 most reliably Republican districts are Districts 10B out of Wadena (41.3 points, held by Mark Murdock), District 33B out of Orono (38.0 points, Connie Doepke), District 34A in Waconia (35.1 points, Paul Kohls), and District 24A in Fairmont (31.6 points, Bob Gunther).

Representative Kohls is one of three GOP House members running for governor, and represents the district with the fourth largest margin of victory for Republicans since 2002. Other Republican gubernatorial contenders include former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, representing the 8th most reliably GOP House district (21A out of Marhsall, 28.6 points) and Representative Tom Emmer, representing the 26th most Republican district (19B in the St. Michael area, 16.4 points).

Emmer's district is the only one out of 134 across the state in which the GOP has improved its standing in each contest since 2002 (increasing its margin of victory, or decreasing its margin of loss).

Although new Republican Minority Leader Kurt Zellers represents the district with the 10th largest average margin of victory for Republicans in the state, that number is inflated by his predecessor Rich Stanek's 98.0-point unchallenged run in 2002. Zellers, who Smart Politics profiled in June as one of the most politically vulnerable House Republican caucus leaders in recent history, has won his last three contests by an average of just 7.1 points.

Undefeated Republican Minnesota House Districts by Average Margin of Victory, 2002-2008

Rank
District
Area
State Rep.
MoV
1
33A**
Plymouth
Steve Smith
43.3
2
10B*
Wadena
Mark Murdock
41.3
3
33B*
Orono
Connie Doepke
38.0
4
34A
Waconia
Paul Kohls
35.1
5
24A
Fairmont
Bob Gunther
31.6
6
32A
Maple Grove
Joyce Peppin
31.1
7
11A
Alexandria
Torrey Westrom
28.7
8
21A
Marshall
Marty Seifert
28.6
9
36A
Lakeville
Mary Liz Holberg
28.1
10
32B*
Maple Grove
Kurt Zellers
27.9
11
13A
Sauk Center
Paul Anderson
27.8
12
35B
Savage
Mark Buesgens
27.0
13
42B
Eden Prairie
Jenifer Loon
26.6
14
49A
Andover
Peggy Scott
23.5
15
48B
Ramsey
Jim Abeler
23.0
16
18A
Hutchinson
Ron Shimanski
21.7
17
34B
Chanhassen
Joe Hoppe
21.6
18
52A
Forest Lake
Bob Dettmer
21.3
19
16B
Big Lake
Mary Kiffmeyer
20.8
20
28B
Goodview
Steve Drazkowski
19.8
21
09A
Moorhead
Morrie Lanning
18.4
22
41A
Edina
Keith Downey
17.0
23
29A
Kasson
Randy Demmer
16.8
24
36B
Farmington
Pat Garofalo
16.7
24
48A
Elk River
Tom Hackbarth
16.7
26
19B
St. Michael
Tom Emmer
16.4
27
10A
Fergus Falls
Bud Nornes
15.7
27
35A
Shakopee
Mike Beard
15.7
29
25A
New Prague
Laura Brod
15.5
30
19A
Buffalo
Bruce Anderson
15.0
31
57B
Hastings
Denny McNamara
14.8
32
15A
St. Cloud
Steve Gottwalt
14.3
33
21B
New Ulm
Paul Torkelson
12.7
34
43A
Plymouth
Sarah Anderson
12.6
35
18B
Litchfield
Dean Urdahl
12.0
36
22A
Luverne
Doug Magnus
11.1
37
14A
Sauk Rapids
Dan Severson
11.0
38
22B
Worthington
Rod Hamilton
10.6
39
04B
Crosslake
Larry Howes
10.6
40
53B
White Bear Lake
Carol McFarlane
10.5
41
24B
Wells
Tony Cornish
8.8
42
17A
Cambridge
Rob Eastlund
5.8
* No opposition in 2002. ** No opposition in 2006. Due to special elections, Republicans won Districts 32B, 18A, and 28B five times since 2002. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Coming later this week: a profile of the 40 swing districts won by both the DFL and GOP during the last four election cyles.

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Previous post: What Are the Odds of a GOP Takeover of the Minnesota House in 2010?
Next post: Obama Approval Rating Holds in Minnesota, Plummets in Iowa and Wisconsin

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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